Review of The Gift

The Gift (VI) (2015)
8/10
"See, you're done with the past, but the past is not done with you."
8 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Time will tell whether Joel Edgerton joins the exclusive club of the famous actors turned talented and successful film directors or sticks to the acting career but his directorial debut, "The Gift", was a nice gift to the fans of the psychological thrillers in the Alfred Hitchcock's fashion or, rather, their new variety, "marriage thrillers" that follow the success of David Fincher's provocative Gone Girl. Edgerton, who gave a bravura performance in the fellow Aussie's, Buz Luhrmann's adaptation of Great Gatsby, hit the trifecta with writing the screenplay, directing, and producing The Gift, and also playing one of the three main characters.

Edgerton undoubtedly loves the good thriller and proves to know how to make one. The Gift starts with a married couple, Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn Callen (Rebecca Hall), relocated from Chicago to a suburban Los Angeles neighborhood after Simon finds a new job outside the city that should propel him to the corporate heights. While out buying supplies for their new picture-perfect home, they run into Gordon "Gordo" Moseley (Joel Edgerton), a former high school classmate of Simon's who Simon claims to have completely forgotten about. Soon after, Gordo begins dropping in unannounced, usually when Simon is at work. He sends thoughtful housewarming gifts for the couple, neatly wrapped in the bright paper, with the bow attached, accompanied with nice handwritten card in the red envelope.

Without giving too much away, it should be said that whatever started as yet another retelling of the "Fatal Attraction" type story, turned out as the dissections of such ugly but persisting realities of life as bullying, human cruelty, unconscious desire for dominating that would start in someone's past and would cover all aspects and spheres of human communicating, including school, family, the workplace, and neighborhood. Main idea of Edgerton's film as shared by director himself during an interview is acknowledgment of one's past, admitting to the wrong doings in order to be able to build the future. But it brings a question: do we change as time goes by? Are we able to admit the guilt that went unpunished and to face the consequences? Can we predict to what extend will our words and deeds affect someone's life? Someone whom we won't even recognize if run across accidentally after many years?

Edgerton plays with the viewers' expectations and takes them to the unpredictable directions adding to the plot more layers and depths. The way he tells the story while building up the suspense and creating disturbing atmosphere is remarkable. He almost convinces the viewers that they could guess easily what would happen next yet when they expect it the least, he pulls the rug from under their feet. As a director, his use of the multiple glass surfaces is masterful. The heavily windowed houses in the nice South California area, Hollywood Hills, are as important to the plot as three main characters. Huge windows and glass doors seem to bring people closer but, at the same time, they stand as the walls of alienation and estrangement. Massive glass elements soon become gloomy threatening messengers of impending psychological horror which comes from the sins of the past that have not been acknowledged. Danger may lurk behind the misted glass door while you take a shower in the safety of your house. There is a silhouette disappearing in the air in the manner of Keyser Söze behind the thick matt glass doors in the hospital. The movie keeps surprising us by changing the viewpoints, by showing that what we see is not always what actually goes on in front of us. It makes us ask themselves, do we really know these closest to us, someone whom we think we share the intimate knowledge of ultimate closeness with.

One of the delicious surprises the movie provides is the characters development that drives the story and moves it in the different directions. Both, Rebecca Hall and Jason Bateman play real people, complex and alive, not just two-dimensional carton figures. Jason Bateman, especially, impresses by bringing out dark sides of Simon's confident, successful, charismatic persona. But the best gift Edgerton keeps to the very end. For the movie which important and repeated over and over image are nice wrapped gift boxes of the different sizes and shapes, the writer/director refuses to wrap up the ending and attach the colorful bow to it. The Gift's conclusion is open but strangely satisfying. What goes around comes around, and bygones don't want to be bygones.
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