31st Jul2015

‘The Gift’ Review

by Jack Kirby

Stars: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton, Busy Philipps, David Denman, Allison Tolman, Katie Aselton, Susan May Pratt, Wendell Pierce, Beau Knapp, Tim Griffin, Nash Edgerton, P.J. Byrne, Mirrah Foulkes, Adam Lazarre-White | Written and Directed by Joel Edgerton


The Gift sees Jason Bateman play tech salesman Simon, who returns to his home town in California with his wife Robyn, played by Rebecca Hall. The couple soon encounter Joel Edgerton’s Gordo, an acquaintance of Simon’s from school. Gordo at first seems generous and helpful, leaving gifts for the couple and making himself useful around the house, but there’s an intensity to him and inconsistencies in his actions that begin to disturb. Pretty soon, Robyn becomes convinced that Gordo’s intentions are not entirely wholesome and paranoia sets in. But why exactly would Gordo have anything against the couple?

The Gift doesn’t really stand out as a particularly intriguing or exciting sounding film, but I found myself fairly engrossed in it quite quickly. Hall’s character is the focal point of the story and her growing feelings of mistrust in everything and everyone provide a strong through line. I enjoyed watching the character’s growing agency. Strictly speaking, it’s a thriller, but the film borrows horror elements. As such, there are several sequences of high tension that do get the pulse rate racing. The reason these sequences work particularly well is because they tap into a universal fears; not many of us have been stalked by slashers or haunted by ghosts, but most people have been left alone in a house in the middle of the night with our imaginations.

Most of us will also probably know a social misfit or two as well. Edgerton (who also directs and wrote the film) plays Gordo well. Interestingly, whilst the character doesn’t really change, our perception of him does as we learn more about him from the perspectives of the other two leads. Although it’s telegraphed a mile off, when the realisation that Gordo may not really be our antagonist hits the other characters, it’s a well-executed paradigm shift.

The film is more or less a three-hander and Jason Bateman is very well cast in the third main role. Playing largely against type really works in his favour and our sympathies with Simon ebb and flow as the narrative progresses. Bateman is more than up for the material and you feel he relished getting his teeth into the role. He really does suggest an underlying mental fragility that adds to the character. His relationship with Hall feels believable and the impression of a history between them is well made.

I also liked the tone and pace of the film. Tension gets slowly wound up to almost breaking point before a welcome ‘calm before the storm’ (though really, the characters are in the eye, metaphorically speaking) precedes the wrecking ball ending. Having said that, my biggest problems with the film were with its final scenes which I felt weren’t quite true enough to what has come before. It’s rare instance where having an ambiguous ending is arguably less effective. That said, the realisation that the knock out blow happened well before you noticed it is quite neat, if a little unbelievable.

It’s perhaps more solid work than show-stopping and it’s unlikely to shock and surprise you half as much as it would like to, but The Gift gets a lot of stuff right. Strong lead actors, believable and interesting characters that are treated in a generally even-handed manner, excellent sequences of high tension, unfussy direction and a plot that you feel you could quite easily fall into in your own life add up to a tidy little pressure cooker of a film. Treat yourself to The Gift.

The Gift is released in UK cinemas on August 7th.


Comments are closed.