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A still from ‘The Gift’.
A still from ‘The Gift’.

Film review: The Gift

A chilling and surprising psychological thriller

The Great Gatsby and Exodus actor Joel Edgerton takes on multiple departments as writer, director and actor in his feature-length directorial debut. For the many tropes that Edgerton succumbs to in this chilling and surprising psychological thriller, he also adds plenty of twists to keep you guessing. Your sympathies swing between the principal trio of Simon, Robyn and Gordon. Simon and Robyn are happily married and have just moved into a spacious modern home outside Los Angeles but a chance meeting with Gordon sends their lives spiralling out of control. Gordon and Simon attended the same school but did not stay in touch. Simon recalls that Gordon was referred to as “Gordo the weirdo" in school, a weirdness that’s confirmed when he keeps leaving unusual gifts on their doorstep and showing up at the house unannounced.

A largely glass frontage home where Robyn spends hours alone with her dog, whose name is discussed at great length between Robyn and Gordo, are all set-ups for what is going to follow—many scenes of shadows and inexplicable sounds that will make you jump from your seat. The violence is always emotional and psychological, not bloody and physical, which makes The Gift that much more disconcerting.

Gordo’s arrival opens up a Pandora’s box of hidden secrets and a troubling present that threatens to destroy Simon and Robyn’s perfect life. Gordo plays on Robyn’s vulnerability and Simon’s ego. Like Robyn, the audience is also unsure if Simon’s suspicions—that Gordo’s intentions are mala fide—are justifiable.

As the story unravels, Edgerton brings up questions of vengeance, forgiveness, redemption and human behaviour in a contemporary context. His stylish direction builds the suspense and tension and creates the atmospherics. His own performance as Gordo is correctly creepy and he’s matched note for note by Jason Bateman as Simon and Rebecca Hall as Robyn. Bateman shows a form and depth not often seen in his work and Hall is quietly powerful as the woman walking an emotional tightrope.

The Gift released in theatres on Friday.

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