The essential facts of the home life of Maria del Carmen (Maria Onetto) are in the opening of Puzzle. She bustles about preparing for a party, but only when the cake comes out with 5-0 candles do you realize it’s her birthday that’s being celebrated. Maria is a petty, bourgeois housewife with two young-adult sons and a husband (Gabriel Goity) who treats her with tender distraction, as a known quantity. Which she is, really, until she discovers quite by accident that the intent, task-oriented concentration that’s been going into housework can also be applied to jigsaw puzzles. Maria also discovers she has a knack for maintaining deception: Her new hobby leads her to a gentleman puzzle-enthusiast (Arturo Goetz) who’s looking for a partner to take on the world championship, and she begins to sneak off and covertly train with him. The self-esteem booster shot provided by the sudden discovery of a prodigious talent is conveyed in a shy, self-surprised amusement by Onetto, accompanied by the slightest loosening of the joints. The storytelling is as unassertive as its protagonist—and likewise gets its way in the end.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 25, 2011