Joel Edgerton’s feature directorial debut The Gift is a masterclass in the psychological thriller.
Sometimes it can be hard to sum up a film in one word, but not so with The Gift.
Tense, that about does it.
In fact, if you don’t relish the idea of sitting on the edge of your cinema seat, that balancing act punctuated only by periods when you jump out of your skin, best give this one a miss.
Joel Edgerton’s feature directorial debut follows young married couple Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) as they embark on a new life together.
We get the hint that all hasn’t been easy for the couple, so a decision to relocate to the area where Simon grew up – and has a high-powered new job – was made.
As the pair settle in, they go shopping, which is where one of Simon’s old school friends bumps into them.
A definite oddball, Gordo (Edgerton) instantly recognises his friend – much to Simon’s embarrassment, as he can’t place him at all.
After exchanging pleasantries the group go their separate ways…
Until presents start turning up at Simon and Robyn’s home.
And then Gordo pops around without warning on several occasions.
While Robyn feels sorry for the seemingly lonely guy, she can’t understand why her husband is so keen on extracting him from their lives and so she starts to do some digging, which is when the fun really begins.
What’s great about The Gift is the way the tension mounts throughout the movie.
Seemingly innocuous lines are laden with such foreboding that you can’t help but sit hunched as you wait for the twist to hit.
“An eye for an eye, I say,” whispers Gordo at one point, “The bad things in life can be a gift.”
And then hit it does, full force and straight to the jugular. Twice.
What follows are very dark questions about how well you can ever know the people you share your life with.
After all, aren’t we all taking most of what someone says on trust?
How do we really know what their family was like, how they grew up or what went on at their school?
Be warned: this isn’t the film to watch if you have any doubts about those around you.
Edgerton puts on a masterful display as the creepy but seemingly good-natured Gordo in this psychological thriller, while this is a real departure for almost perennial nice-guy Bateman.
The jokes are still there, but they all have an edge – it’s really going to be hard to see him in the same light again.
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