(4.5 / 5)
Trauma shapes each person differently. Some ignore the effects and soldier on; others find their world and themselves irrevocably changed. Movies are notorious for exploiting the fallout. Where some films focus on the light at the end of the tunnel, others mill around in the darkness of what occurred. The Gift attempts to catch a glimpse of each.
The film opens on Simon and Robyn (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall). The couple has just found a new home and moved back to California from Chicago for reasons not immediately known. While getting their home new furnished, Simon finds himself face-to-face with Gordon (Joel Edgerton), an old classmate of his. As the couple gets adjusts to their new home, Gordon seeks friendship from them. However, Simon doesn’t trust him and seeks to keep him at arms length.
With a setup like this, The Gift seems destined to be a film where the nice guy gets turned away and becomes malevolent. Thankfully, this story is anything except simple. Writer, director, producer, and co-star Joel Edgerton crafts an uneasy tale of three people. In the interest of maintaining the tension, it is essential to go into the film knowing as little as possible. The freshness of it and the lack of spoilers in the promos make it a truly rewarding experience.
The trio of leads is sharp as they inhabit their respective roles. Edgerton embodies Gordon with a quiet nature that appears simultaneously mysterious and wounded. Credit to Edgerton for giving Bateman a role in which he can be unlikable and almost relatable. The biggest deception is not putting Rebecca Hall front and center in the marketing. The Gift is told through her point of view and it is her that the audience watches things unfold. It’s her movie to own.
It is incredibly hard these days to achieve a film of this nature that doesn’t feel patronizing or bland. The Gift excels in crafting a film that ratchets up the tension without going overboard. By the time the third act comes around, twists and turns lead to a conclusion that is so delightfully original, it will be hard to top.
Solid cast, great script, and textbook tension building to an unforgettable climax. The Gift is the type of film that gives hope to psychological thrillers everywhere. 4.5 out of 5 stars