By: Staff Writer Amrith Krishnan
In just over a hundred minutes, The Gift accomplishes the incredible task of taking the audience through every sensation between gut-wrenching terror and a warm, cozy feeling of happiness. Director Joel Edgerton spins a tale of revenge, anger, and forgiveness in a thriller that takes the audience on undeniably one of the wildest psychological adventures of all time.
Simon (Jason Bateman) and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are successful in pretty much every way. They’ve bought a new home, Simon has a new job, and Robyn is thinking about getting back into her artistic career. Things are going well until Gordo (Joel Edgerton) shows up—or rather, is caught peering in through the glass windows of the house—and brings the newcomers a welcoming gift. Simon soon realizes that Gordo is an old high school classmate of his. The gifts continue. First, it’s a bottle of expensive wine. Then, it’s a pond full of koi and a jar of fish food. Next, it’s a small monkey. The gifts are weird and Gordo is awkward—he shows up mostly when Simon isn’t around during the day, and we get the feeling that he’s really only around to hit on Robyn.
As more mysterious things start to happen and the plot develops, the audience begins to understand that this movie goes a lot deeper than just a simple relationship tussle. Simon and Gordo’s pasts seem to hold many secrets, and Simon isn’t exactly the most open husband. As Robyn delves deeper into the mystery, she learns that the man she thought she knew is really a stranger, and that some gifts should never be given.
It’s rare when a thriller without a drop of blood or a supernatural presence has the power to truly frighten the audience, but “The Gift” is gifted with this quality. Real people can be just as terrible as any ghost, vampire, or zombie, and Edgerton’s movie drives that point home. Though the movie can get slow at times, there are moments where the movie causes the audience to feel their pulse change and their heartbeat quicken like no other. Edgerton has done an amazing job of orchestrating this reaction with one weapon at his disposal—unpredictability. The plot is unique and the majority of plot twists that occur are completely unexpected.
Edgerton knows that we fear what we do not know, and he portrays Gordo as a mysterious, creepy, even awkward middle-aged man who the audience can never really connect with throughout the movie. Furthermore, Simon gives off the vibe that he is cool, calm, and collected, but with every gift and with the dinner party he reveals a little more about himself and his true identity. The audience soon realizes that the only character they can connect with is the emotionally weak Robyn—and she’s a character who is forced to question her own perspective of the people she knows. Robyn is caught up in this mysterious battle of ideas between Simon and Gordo, and as we connect with her, we too feel helpless in the face of two men who are neither heroes nor villains.
The movie isn’t all thrills and mystery—it means more to a high school student than an R-rated movie typically does. Gordo and Simon’s high school relationship was a dark one, as the audience finds out early on in the movie. When uncovered, the mystery of their past shows us that even the relationships we make during the teenage years and the actions we take towards people in high school can have massive implications in our lives further down the road. As Gordo himself says, “you may be done with the past, but the past is not done with you.”
Combine that chilling perspective with masterful storytelling, artful cinema, and an on-point performance by all three main actors, and Joel Edgerton has given us a true masterpiece of a thriller.