Simon and Robyn 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 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?Written by
'The Gift' marked Joel Edgerton's directorial debut. He also wrote and starred in the film alongside Rebecca Hall and Jason Bateman. For a first time director, this is a very solid, admirable and promising piece of work.
Edgerton's writing is intricate. He interweaves a number of themes together very well while creating a general structure. First of all he uses the premise of the past actions having a huge bearing on the present. The film delves into the theme of bullying and how much of an impact bullying can have on the victim throughout his/her life. Edgerton takes this concept of bullying and merges it with the work culture in the modern corporate world. He shows how people who were once bullies during their school days can continue with their bullying in their professional work to be successful. Edgerton's film is a bit of a damning indictment on corporate culture where these bullies and their bullying get rewarded more often than not.
When it comes to direction, Edgerton has a great sense of how to use an enclosed location to amplify the tension, because at the heart of it, 'The Gift' is a thriller that thrives on the creation of tension. Edgerton uses the house that Simon and Robyn move in to brilliantly in the tension-filled scenes. I also noticed some subtle use of blocking that he uses. Specially in the kitchen scenes, there is a bit of a rectangular opening in the wall which gets uses quite subtly whenever there is a argument happening between husband and wife. However the moment in the film that stayed with me will be an image that comes very early on in the film. As Robyn and Simon are checking out the different rooms in this new house that they are considering to move into, there is a shot where we see Robyn and Simon facing each other with a glass sliding door separating them. Simon slides open the door and Robyn moves out the door to join Simon oh his side and walks off. This moment in a thematic sense, is a foreshadow for the whole film and it's a brilliant moment.
The acting is also very good. For me the best performance in the film comes from Rebecca Hall. She shows the right amount of grace, likability and vulnerability to portray the character of Robyn and sells her paranoia very convincingly. Jason Bateman once again shows that he can be so much more than just a comedic actor. He showed this in 'Disconnect' and now in 'The Gift' he again shows a different side to his personality. Edgerton himself plays the character who initially seems like the typical creepy outsider who'll haunt the couple, but as the film progresses, the film slowly reveals certain aspects of his character and the film somewhat subverts some clichés.
'The Gift' is a bit like the lighter, non-flashy, a little more grounded version of 'Cape Fear'. It does not achieve greatness, but it is certainly a solid, well made thriller especially considering this is Edgerton's first outing as a director. Recommended.
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