If there is ever a wrapped gift on the front steps of your house, be cautious of opening it. It could open up a whole world of ugly.
“The Gift” is that kind of a gift in the sense that the story it has to tell is not a good one, but it’s a very well done psychological thriller and character study from actor, now director & writer Joel Edgerton (who also stars). Edgerton has crafted a thrilling piece of cinema that teaches us a lesson about the words we say, and how they can haunt you forever. It manages to not to get overly silly either, thanks to the smartly written screenplay.
Simon (played by Jason Bateman) and Robyn (played fantastically by Rebecca Hall) are a young married couple who have just moved to the sunny state of California for Simon’s new job. Besides not being able to get pregnant, life seems to be going well for them overall. This is until Simon and Robyn run into one of Simon’s old classmates, Gordo (Edgerton). Simon is having a hard time remembering Gordo, but Gordo seems to really remember Simon. The two of them exchange numbers and decide to catch up soon.
Things start to get even more weird when Gordo gets Simon and Robyn’s address and starts sending them gifts. One of the gifts is Simon and Robyn come home to their fish pond full of new koi. Then Gordo starts showing up at the house while Simon is at work, and Robyn and him start to hang out. This worries Simon very much, as he knows something is off with Gordo. And it doesn’t take long for Robyn to figure out that Simon and Gordo have a secret…something happened to the two of them back in the day.
As the film goes on Robyn works to figure out what Simon did to Gordo that is making him act so weird, including oddly written cards that Gordo sends to Simon. Simon, on the other hand, works to push Gordo away from their life, while trying to land a huge promotion at work. It’s an eerie, psychological and engaging film that will have you on the edge of your seat.
Jason Bateman does a fine job as Simon, trying to come off as this perfect family and business man, but then you start to see his true colors. Rebecca Hall is wonderful as Robyn, providing a somewhat powerful performance of a woman who really doesn’t know her husband. Finally, Joel Edgerton is the ultimate creepy man who just seems to be struggling with something personal. The more you get to know him, the less you blame him completely.
Edgerton also does a solid job of directing, while providing a smart and thoughtful screenplay. He doesn’t stand for cheap thrills. Instead he takes a much deeper story and shocks us that way. It’s almost brilliant, and I can’t wait for him to release more films. He could be one of the most promising actors turned directors/writers.
“The Gift” is a surprise hit for 2015. The cast, the direction and writing all fit nice into a tight, smart, crazy wrapped box that will have you biting your nails until the very end. Rated R.