After a miscarriage, Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) decided that they need a fresh start. So they move from Chicago to California, close to where Simon grew up. By chance they run into Gordo (Joel Edgerton) who used to go to school with Simon. Simon doesn’t recognize him at first and is generally reluctant, but Gordo is undeterred in his friendliness. He brings over gifts and Robyn invites him to dinner. But there seems to be more going on than just Gordo’s friendly strangeness.
The Gift is a sleek little thriller. It probably won’t write cinematic history, but it manages to create enough tension to be thoroughly engaging throughout.
The Gift is Edgerton’s first feature film as director (though he has directed short films before that and written quite a few scripts) and as a debut, The Gift is thoroughly impressive, although it does have a few weaknesses. This becomes particularly obvious when it comes to the acting (which is surprising given that that’s Edgerton’s area of expertise): I’ve seen better performances by all three main actors, Edgerton included.
Nevertheless there is enough tension in the film to make you quickly forget those moments where the cast stumbles. Set mostly in an atmospheric house (excellent location for a film, btw.), the unease Gordo insipires quickly becomes claustrophobic, the open design of the house with its myriad of windows becoming oppressive rather than giving space and air.
I also liked some of the directions the script takes, most notably its conviction that people don’t necessarily just grow out of being bullies. If left unchecked, it is very likely that they just continue on their path. Unfortunately though the film is also rather sexist: instead of standing on her own two feet as a character, Robyn is quickly demoted to plaything status: she is the object through which Gordo and Simon fight out their war. Her pain, her role in the entire story is not relevant, or only insofar as it makes the life of the men around her more difficult. (At least Robyn does get to have a friend in Lucy, played by Allison Tolman who I’m starting to like more and more.)
Despite my misgivings though, The Gift was an enjoyable film that made me feel with the characters and kept me interested in their story. There wasn’t one boring second about it – and that is high praise for a thriller indeed.