10 out of 10
Rebecca Hall Robyn
Written and Directed by Joel Edgerton
When Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall), a young married couple, move back to Simon’s hometown, they’re soon approached by Gordo (Joel Edgerton), who claims to have known Simon from high school. Gordo begins to leave gifts for Simon and Robyn, working his way into their lives. There’s something unsettling about him, however, and questions are soon raised about Gordo’s seeming generosity and where his true origins and intentions lie.
There’s so much that’s shocking about The Gift, STX Entertainment’s edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller. Not only does the film feature more than its fair share of truly startling moments, it’s jam-packed with bursts of intellectual and emotional intensity that do far more than just stun. They leave an impression.
It’s shocking the places The Gift gets to. A small idea builds organically into a vast thematic tapestry with just three central characters. As their pasts unfold, the audience is asked to assess and reassess with every line. Some are clues, some are red herrings and some are just haunting little notions that simply make the characters feel richer and deeper — certainly more flawed — than many of those with whom we’re presented in big screen thrillers.
Bateman and Hall are sublime in their roles, turning in nuanced, layered performances that are further heightened by Edgerton’s impressive script. Although we’re essentially experiencing the story through Robyn’s point of view, the methods and motives of every character are developed to a degree that should reward repeat viewings and fuel all manner of in-depth thematic analyses.
In addition to roles in films like Gavin O’Connor’s Warrior and Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, Edgerton has proven that he’s no stranger to work behind the camera. He has written and produced films like Felony and The Square (the latter directed by his brother Nash Edgerton with whom Joel has also collaborated on a number of great short films). It’s nevertheless quite astonishing how deftly Edgerton works his omnipresent role as writer, producer, director and star, crafting something of both style and substance. If Edgerton has more films as solid as The Gift in him, it’s not hard to imagine that he’ll soon be known first and foremost as a director.
Cinematographer Eduard Grau (best known for films like Buried and A Single Man) deserves quite a bit of credit for capturing the story’s magnifcent visuals. Largely set in one location, The Gift’s fourth main character is a hauntingly beautiful glass-walled home that rapidly develops its own unique iconography.
Ultimately, it’s shocking just how great The Gift is. Not the least bit ashamed of the story’s pulpy conceit, Edgerton channels cinematic classics like Rebecca and Repulsion without aping them. The Gift offers a truly intense narrative with some wickedly dark twists and turns. It is both thrilling and thought-provoking, riddled with a true sense of craft.
The Bottom Line:
The Gift is quite likely the strongest actor-to-director debut since Ben Affleck’s Gone Baby Gone. The film itself is a gift to movie lovers everywhere and what’s more, it’s one that you’re going to want to unwrap more than once.