Marc Turtletaub’s film Puzzle begins at someone’s birthday party in a suburban family home on the East Coast. The camera finds Agnes (Kelly Macdonald) wandering through a crowd of people, carrying trays of food and drinks. Nobody acknowledges her presence in the room. She functions like a maid, serving the guests, visible only when something is needed.
The scene sets a tone: “Agnes has clearly made and decorated the cake,” Macdonald says. “She puts the candles in, lights them and then walks into the room where you think, ‘Who's it going to be?’ It tells you all you need to know going forward.”
Macdonald, who along with Turtletaub was recently in San Francisco for an advance screening of Puzzle, is best known for supporting other characters in films like Trainspotting, Gosford Park and No Country for Old Men. But in Puzzle, it's the other characters in the film who support her. A passive character like Agnes might recede into the background were it not for Macdonald’s sharp wit and unsentimental approach.
“I didn’t act harder or anything," she says. "I did what I always do for every role.”
Turtletaub laughs at her response, adding, “She said she didn't even realize that she was in every scene. She was number one on the call sheet. Kelly's not somebody who tries to draw attention to herself.” And neither is Agnes.