Last week, I finally got to watch The Gift, a thriller that I had heard mostly good things about and was eagerly awaiting. The directorial debut of Joel Edgerton (who also wrote and starred in the movie), The Gift revolves around Simon and Robyn (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall), a young couple whose lives seem to be coming together as they move into a new home, Simon gets a significant promotion at work, and they work on starting a family. This ultimate happiness comes crashing down when they run into Gordo (Edgerton), a former classmate of Simon’s who harbors a dark secret.
The initial encounter in an upscale retail store is more than a little awkward, as Simon doesn’t recognize his high school classmate at first, but all the while you can tell that the run-in was no accident. Before long, Gordo starts showing up at their home, leaving small gifts. His appearances are creepy, but seem mostly innocuous at first. Simon and Robyn don’t know it yet, but Gordo is looking to drop a bomb that will send their lives into a tailspin. The gifts and visits become more frequent and more intimidating, and as the tension rises, Gordo’s reasoning is revealed. In high school, Gordo endured an incident which effectively ruined his life, and in which Simon was involved, and Gordo has come to exact his revenge. As Simon’s live unravels, his true colors are set free, and the viewer is reminded that some people never change. The movie climaxes with the potential of an earth-shattering revelation that is effectively left to the imagination, making it that much more wicked. My review thus far is being kept purposely cryptic, since this is a relatively new movie, and is best viewed without the twists being learned ahead of time.
The Gift is unique in that it is difficult to tell who the protagonist actually is. Is it Simon, a man who is simply trying to defend his family and keep the past buried? Is it Robyn, who is caught in the middle of something that had nothing to do with her, and tries to get to the bottom of it? Or is it Gordo, a tormented individual who is just trying to make Simon see what his actions have done to him? A film can undoubtedly have more than one protagonist, so it is left to the audience to decide who it is, and in this case, it may very well be all three of the main characters depending on your viewpoint.
Joel Edgerton wore several hats with The Gift, and his juggling act with writing, directing and acting here is commendable. He played the deranged character of Gordo convincingly, and provided the audience with plenty of tension, twists, and a stern message about the effects of bullying. Jason Bateman, known almost exclusively for his comedic roles, is impressive here in a refreshing turn as a much more serious, short-tempered character. There are a lot of awkward conversations during the build-up that are uncomfortable to watch, but when the movie becomes a full-blown thriller, it leaves nothing to be desired. There are also several points throughout when conversations are being had that are nearly inaudible unless you crank your volume all the way up, but I can only imagine that was done on purpose. Overall, The Gift is a very well-done film that sends chills down your spine, and packs a powerful messaging concerning bullying and the fact that the past is not always over.