A young married couple’s lives are thrown into a harrowing tailspin when an acquaintance from the husband’s past brings mysterious gifts and a horrifying secret to light after more than 20 years.
‘The Gift’ is the kind of thriller that you could imagine being made in the early 90s and as a throwback to those films, ‘The Gift’ is an extremely well made thriller from first time director Joel Edgerton. The film centres on three core characters; Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are a married couple who have just moved to Los Angeles from Chicago for Simon’s job, and Gordo (Joel Edgerton), an old classmate of Simon’s who bumps into them in a department store shortly after their arrival. Gordo recognises Simon, but Simon doesn’t recognise him, and he seems hostile to Gordo’s attempts to insert himself into their lives, as he starts to turn up at their house, initially with innocent reasons such as advice about the local area and a housewarming gift. As you may expect, this behaviour becomes more unusual and it prompts Robyn to question if Simon really doesn’t remember Gordo from their time together at school.
Joel Edgerton is a talented actor, turning in several excellent roles in front of the camera of late, and his directing here, combined with a writing credit on last year’s ‘The Rover’ are marking him out as a real multi-talented performer. His direction here is all about building atmosphere and he mostly eschews traditional jump scares to intrigue the audience by building suspense through clever camerawork that creeps around corners and clings to the walls of Simon and Robyn’s new suburban house. The film has its horror tendencies, but it’s more sophisticated than most modern horror films, as Edgerton’s script weaves a clever narrative that plays with expectations in interesting ways. The first half of the film follows a fairly standard template, with most plot developments fairly obvious, but when he starts diving into the psyche of his main characters the film really comes into its own. It’s fairly difficult to talk about a film like ‘The Gift’ without getting into spoiler territory, but I was pleasantly surprised at the direction Edgerton takes the narrative in.
To assist him, Edgerton has cast Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall as the idyllic couple at the centre of the story. Bateman is more commonly known for comedic roles where he often plays the straight man, and this makes his casting all the better for a role as the successful Simon, who on the face of it, is a decent man working hard to provide for his family. Robyn spends more time in the new house as Simon is at work and therefore Hall gets more of the ‘horror-lite’ material and her performance and the camerawork combine to build tension around everything from opening a cupboard to a knock on the door. Edgerton is also excellent as the man who inserts himself into Robyn and Simon’s life, with the trio of outstanding performances helping to elevate the quality of the film to a higher level.
As the film moves towards its conclusion, it delivers some intriguing revelations and a bone chilling finale that will leave the audience musing on what just happened, and overall Joel Edgerton has delivered a smart thriller with his feature debut that I would highly recommend.
Directed By: Joel Edgerton
Starring: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton, Tim Griffin, Allison Tolman, Beau Knapp, P.J. Byrne, David Denman, Busy Phillips, Wendell Pierce and Katie Aselton