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Soundtrack review: Puzzle (Dustin O’Halloran – 2018)

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Soundtrack review: Puzzle (Dustin O’Halloran – 2018)

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“Puzzle” is a 2018 American drama film directed by Marc Turtletaub and written by Oren Moverman and Polly Mann, based on the 2010 Argentine film of the same name. Agnes, taken for granted as a suburban wife and mother, discovers a passion for solving jigsaw puzzles which unexpectedly draws her into a new world – where her life unfolds in ways she could never have imagined. Dustin O’Halloran wrote the score.

My expectations from this score are simply to be charmed. I have always been drawn to Dustin O’Halloran’s music and with a story like this, going the safe way seems like the best choice. The opening cue “The party” seems to confirm this as it’s as simple and joyful piano theme. It’s the main theme of this movie actually as it recurs right away in “Presents”. I am a big lover of piano melodies and in today’s loud and busy film music world a quietly and simply elegant score like this one is much needed and appreciated. “Puzzle one” takes charming to a whole new level as the strings and flute join in the elegance; the music is warm, comfortable, pleasant to listen to and flows beautifully.

The composition is simple, minimalistic almost in how little instruments are used but it does not need anything else. It doesn’t step away from the restrained, romantic sound so there are barely any comedic motifs or moments of extreme joy. There is a constant autumn like melancholy to the music, the sort of piece the beginning of autumn brings after the chaos of the summer; it’s settling down music, it’s reflective music, it’s music to listen to on a long train ride. I have been missing a score like this, a nugget of sensitive film music, tender and meaningful. The piano solos are simply stunning (just listen to “Service of light” for example) and the mood of the entire score is hypnotic and delightful.

I guess if you are familiar with Dustin O’Halloran’s music, with his sensitivity and approach to composing, you know what you are in for. If you somehow haven’t been convinced yet by this wonderful composer, there’s no better place to start than “Puzzle”. This is one of my favourite romantic scores of 2018 so far.

Cue rating: 100 / 100

Highlights:
The Party
Presents
Puzzle One
Church Group
Train in New York
Good at This
Puzzle Two
Essay
Kiss
I Can’t Stay
Service of Light
Easter
Return to Robert
Puzzle Competition
Might Hurt
Horizons (feat. Ane Brun)

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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