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USA 2015
Directed by
Joel Edgerton
108 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3.5 stars

Gift, The

Synopsis: Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are a successful young couple who leave Chicago and move into their dream home back in the town where Simon went to school. They bump into Simon’s old school acquaintance, Gordo (Joel Edgerton), who starts leaving gifts, dropping by unexpectedly, and making the couple feel quite uncomfortable. Gradually a nasty secret from the past is revealed, and ultimately Robyn must start to ask if she really knows the man to whom she is married.

As writer and first-time director of this thought-provoking and suspenseful film, Joel Edgerton has certainly come a long way from his early career as an actor on Australian television. The Gift works on a number of levels. As a thriller it is a solid and gripping piece of cinema. It starts innocuously and gradually the tension ramps up as we get to know Gordo, a man who is a bit “odd”, but we can’t quite put a finger on exactly how. Whether he is more threatening than odd is always foremost in our mind and this ongoing tension is both well-scripted and cleverly captured in Edgerton’s performance.

The Gift is fairly and squarely in the psychological thriller camp, but the cinematography suggests the sort of nail-biting fear that we associate with horror films. Focussing on the gifts that land on Simon and Robyn’s doorstep, POV shots from behind the couple with Gordo out of focus in the background or through the extensive glass panels in the couple’s house make for the feeling of always being observed. A few old chestnuts are employed to evoke a frisson of traditional horror film fear: a mechanical toy, shower scenes, house noises at night, and delivered videos with “watch me” sticky notes on them.

The psychological element is intelligently crafted. There is no simplistic answer as to who is the good guy and who the bad. Deeds from the past have certainly come back to haunt Simon but whether the responses from Gordo are justified is up to the viewer to judge as the film cleverly works our sympathies, first with one perspective then the other. Issues of honesty and people not being open with their partners are prominent as ultimately is the horrifying feeling of discovering people who you think you know are not what they seem to be. What Robyn discovers about her husband is just as potentially threatening to her marriage as what Gordo does to disrupt the couple’s life. Issues of revenge raise their ugly head, and certainly the final twist with all its uncertainty is a chilling and somewhat nasty thought to grapple with.

Bateman acquits himself well in a more serious role than his usual comedies and Hall is quietly powerful as a woman grappling with her own demons concerning past loss as well as her growing doubts about her husband. Edgerton takes on a lot of hats in this Australian-US co-production and does a stylish job of wearing them all.  His film is rewarding viewing.




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