See The Gift in theaters.
If you ever possessed the opportunity to confront your past, no matter the stakes, would you take it?
Such a question is the driving factor behind what might be this summer’s most unexpected thriller, The Gift. This enthrallingly suspenseful masterpiece, written and directed by renowned actor Joel Edgerton, takes a genre that constantly falls through the stereotypical cracks of Hollywood’s formulated façade and pushes its boundaries to new heights. And it is in this way that the audience (including myself) is left with its jaws hanging to the floor.
From the initial moments of the film, we are thrown directly into Simon and Robin Callum’s notion of a “fresh start”. This young and vibrant couple decides that a change of pace from the windswept confinement of Chicago is right up their alley, leading them to take up residency near Simon’s hometown in suburban Los-Angeles. Such a sudden change of pace comes with the motivation of Simon’s new job and the possibility of the couple starting a family. Furthermore, as with any homecoming, Simon is almost immediately recognized by one of his old high school peers, Gordon Moseley (aka “Gordo the Weirdo”). Gordo soon becomes a frequent visitor to their new L.A. home, dropping off unnecessarily sizable gifts in exchange for contact with the Callums. However, Gordo’s peculiar social abilities lead to considerable problems for Simon and Robin, thus beginning what becomes a persistently unpredictable rollercoaster ride of secrets, betrayal, and vengeance (to say the least).
The Gift, without giving much away, follows every rule and standard that you would expect from a psychological thriller. Even so, director Joel Edgerton follows these principles with such success and ease that the film feels strikingly fresh and unconventional throughout its entire 108-minute running time. It does everything in its power to slow down your own pace and build a sense of tension around its sluggish tracking camera shots. In this stealthy frame of mind, we find ourselves forced to see the story unfold from the eyes of an intruder, almost as if Edgerton wants us to experience this as a parallel to how Gordo is portrayed throughout the story.
If that was not enough, the acting adds a whole other layer of emotion to the film. For instance, notable actor Jason Bateman takes on Simon Callum with an intentional sense of ambiguity that leaves us questioning the true value of his character from beginning to end. Additionally, Rebecca Hall brings innocence and purity to Robin’s persona, pushing us to believe that she’s the good egg in all of this. Nevertheless, no one hits the mark better this time around than Joel Edgerton himself, who brilliantly takes on the role of Gordo as well as his roles behind-the-scenes. He embodies Gordo for all of his Weirdo, making the audience feel just as out-of-place as he is.
Overall, The Gift might be playing off some of the oldest tricks in the book. Nevertheless, with a strong foundation in its camerawork, acting, and even story structure, the film finds its footing in uncharted territory. And, without spoilers, the last five minutes will have you glued to the screen in sheer disbelief. Hence, from opening credits to closing credits, this film is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
If you wish to check it out for yourself, The Gift is now playing locally in and around Montclair! Some theaters include AMC Essex Green Cinema 9 in West Orange and even AMC Clifton Commons 16. For show times, a list of even more theaters and ticket purchases, visit fandango.com.