Free Press Journal

Movie Review: The Gift – Psychological Thriller

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Cast: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton,Allison Tollman,Tim

Griffin,David Denman

Director: Joel Edgerton


Joel Edgerton  played the Pharaoh Rameses in Ridley Scott’s Exodus:God’s and Kings. He was the estranged older brother in the intensely moving sports drama Warrior, a  Hindi remake of which is currently showing in Indian cinemas. Like several others, the multi-talented Australian has dabbled in  various aspects of film-making. Now, he makes his  directorial debut with this smartly plotted thriller about about a young married couple Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robin (Rebecca Hall)  stalked by a former classmate of the husband.  This role is played by Edgerton who also wrote the screenplay which is full of surprises like that other stylish psychological thriller Gone Girl. A pivotal backstory (referenced in dialogue) reprises  the moral universe of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies in which humans (juveniles ) act in selfish, self-serving,and ultimately destructive ways, unrestrained by rules and regulations.

Simon and Robyn relocate from Chicago to  Los Angeles where Simon takes up cushy new corporate  job  and interior designer Robyn struggles to recover from a miscarriage. They are befriended by a stranger (Joel Edgerton), who tells them he is Simon’s childhood schoolmate. The mysterious man follows up the chance encounter with  a series of gifts:a bottle of wine, goldfish; he also drops by when Robyn is home alone.   She  is not amused when Simon refers to Gordon as “Gordo the Weirdo,” a nickname from school, and refuses to discuss the way things were. Dissatisfied, Robyn makes some enquiries on her own and discovers shocking things about the murky past.

There’s poetic justice at the end, which is all about revenge and retribution. In Lord of the Flies, the hero Ralph weeps for the end of innocence, I wondered what Simon wept for in The Gift. The fact that Gordo had the last laugh? The darkness inside Gordo’s heart, or his own? The Gift shows that  falsehoods and  deception can  corrode the soul and damage the psyche much in the manner as  physical violence destroys life. Edgerton’s script is studded with a couple of well-timed shocks, even as he keeps the violence minimal and does not indulge in cheap scares.

(In the hands of a lesser director, the life-altering incidents of adolescence might have become a gratuitously lewd exercise.) Beautifully shot and acted, The Gift is worth buying a ticket to the theatre.