The Gift harkens back to the stalker-thrillers of the early 1990’s, fitting right in with the likes of Pacific Heights, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, and Unlawful Entry. Though we’ve seen our share of this style of film, Joel Edgerton makes The Gift feel new and chilling in his directorial debut.
Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are a young married couple whose life is going just as planned until a chance encounter with an acquaintance from Simon’s high school sends their world into a harrowing tailspin. Simon doesn’t recognize Gordo (Joel Edgerton) at first, but after a series of uninvited encounters and mysterious gifts prove troubling, a horrifying secret from the past is uncovered after more than 20 years. As Robyn learns the unsettling truth about what happened between Simon and Gordo, she starts to question: how well do we really know the people closest to us, and are past bygones ever really bygones? (C) Styx Entertainment
There is a lot of nuance and subtlety to the no-frills plot and script (written by Edgerton as well). Edgerton creates lots of atmosphere with the usual tropes of the genre both in narrative (public, embarrassing confrontations; late night noises in a dark house) and style (long, creeping camera angles; ominous music; smash cuts), but the real beauty of the film is in Edgerton’s approach. What begins as a story about the strange relationship between the former school mates transforms into the story of a woman on the brink of losing her mind, the husband she knew, and possibly her life. There are a few jump out scares, but they are not used egregiously. Edgerton lets your mind do the work by using implication to raise the hairs on your neck.
A key factor to the success of The Gift is the outstanding performances by the cast. Having written and directed The Gift, Edgerton knows exactly how to portray Gordo as strange – yet possibly sweet – and thoroughly sinister. Bateman and Robyn have excellent chemistry with each other and with Edgerton, making all of the interactions feel genuine. Since there are rarely scenes including other characters than these three, it was paramount that their performances be strong – and they killed it. All of the characters transform through out the film, blurring lines and making discoveries about each other and themselves, and this trio proves they have what it takes to handle it and then some.
The only downfall to The Gift is that the ending is fairly predictable to the seasoned moviegoer. While you may have an inkling as to the climax of the film early on, getting there is a thrilling experience. Edgerton throws a few curve balls at you along the way, keeping the ending fresh and twisting it enough to be entirely satisfying. As the mystery begins to unfold you find yourself glued to your seat, completely engrossed in what will come next, and hanging on every look and word spoken to figure it all out. The Gift is not to be underestimated, and definitely worth the ticket price.