The Gift Review

So I watched The Gift…

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I’ve been looking forward to this film for what feels like ages now. I was starting to think it wasn’t even going to make it to the cinema in my part of the world but after four months of waiting, it’s here. Walking into it, I had a preconceived idea of what to expect and boy, could I have not being more wrong.

Okay, basic plot: Simon (Jason Bateman) and his wife, Robyn (Rebecca Hall) relocate to Los Angeles for work. While shopping they run into Gordon ‘Gordo’ Moseley (Joel Edgerton) – a former classmate of Simon’s from high school. Gordo wishes to befriend the couple but his incessant presence causes fear and irritation instead of friendship. As the reason for Gordo’s constant pestering becomes clear, Robyn soon realises that the real threat might be closer to home than she thinks.

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This film is far more intelligent than I thought it would be. I expected a run-of-the-mill crazy-stalker, slasher film but got so much more. This film isn’t about the physical damage that one person can inflict on other but rather the emotional and psychological. Gordo isn’t your typical stalker who’s waiting in the shadows with an axe to kill you; he’s after more than just physical retribution. Joel Edgerton actually isn’t in this movie that much and this is due to the type of antagonist Gordo is. One of the main themes in this film the power of ideas and the effect they can have on people. Gordo becomes an idea who infects the minds of Robyn and Simon and, therefore, doesn’t need to be physically present to be frightening because of the space he takes up in his victims’ minds. It was so refreshing to be able to be afraid of a character without actually having to see him constantly doing scary things.

I love the way this film unfolded and how layered its story and characters are. I really found these characters interesting because their identities were, at times, independent of the plot. Most film characters purely exist to react or partake in the events of the film; but the characters in this film are so complex and well-layered that it feels like the events of the film are additions to their character rather than the foundation. As the film unfolds and we learn more about the characters, it becomes quite clear that this isn’t a simple ‘happy couple’ versus ‘crazy stalker’ story. The puzzle comes together like jagged pieces of glass with no clear image forming. There’s room for interpretation and the fact that you’re allowed this room makes the entire story more engaging.

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Joel Edgerton really deserves praise for this.  This isn’t his first foray into screenwriting but it is his directorial debut and he excels in both categories. This is a slow-burning, emotional thriller that is, almost, completely free of jump-scares and has an ever-present sense of terror to it. Edgerton also shines with his portrayal of Gordo. His performance is psychologically jarring. From the very first time you see him, you feel uneasy and your skin begins to crawl. Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall also do incredible work. Hall, especially, impressed me with her well-measured, emotionally-driven depiction of Robyn.

The only real criticism I have for this film is that, although the majority of it is well-paced, there are moments when it drags and lingers on scenes for too long. Near the end, there’s an extreme acceleration in events and everything seems to happen at once. Now, these are all things that were properly set-up and explained throughout the film but the speed with which they all occur just felt out of rhythm with the rest of the film’s style.

Overall, The Gift is much better than I thought it would be. It’s a true psychological thriller that will mess with your mind and create fear from well thought-out writing and acting rather than cheap jump-scares. I’d suggest you watch it but bring along a date so you have someone’s hand to squeeze. 8/10

 

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