“Gift” a searingly tense, chilling thriller
“The Gift” is about the unraveling of a marriage between a couple named Simon and Robyn, played very well by Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall. The sinister interloper of their marriage is Gordon, also played very well, and menacingly, by Joel Edgerton, who is the director of the film. For much of the movie, though, we are not sure who is at fault; Bateman and Edgerton have dark secrets that will be not spoiled here but are fascinating, disturbing and logical.
The film starts with Bateman and Hall buying a new house in LA. Even in this first scene, they seem a bit uneasy together. When Gordon, or Gordo, as he was called in high school, runs into them, Simon does not remember him at first, and tells Robyn walking away that the conversation was super awkward. The next day, Gordon drops off a bottle of wine. Robyn pities him, and wants to give him a chance, so she invites him over to their house for dinner.
The dinner is somewhat awkward, making it seem like Gordon was jealous of Simon in high school. Simon reveals to Robyn that they were not even friends in high school, and Gordon’s nickname was “Gordo the weirdo”. Simon was class president in high school, and according to Gordon, he could get anything he wanted, and one of his expressions as class President, was “Simon says”.
“The Gift” is quite scary at times, but not in the conventional sense; it is chilling, foreboding and ominous, keeping us on the edge of our seats, so that even some of its more outlandish twists and revelations are quietly shocking. Some of the most terrifying scenes in the film are when Robyn is walking through the house, feeling paranoid and unsure, and the audience shares her fear.
In one scene, where Simon and Robyn are having dinner with their new neighbors, he tells them Robyn is too nice, and she gives people too many chances. This shows throughout the film, making Robyn seem like a bit of a pushover. In this sense, Robyn is a compliment to Simon, who is skeptical of everyone’s motives. Simon, though, is a more complex, fleshed-out character than Robyn.
On a deeper level, the film is about a battle of wills between Simon and Gordon, both overly concerned with their masculinity and their social status. Gordon is traumatized by something that happened to him in high school, and Simon feels threatened by the advances that Simon has made on him and his wife. They are both right to feel this way, yet not right in how they act on their impulses.
Toward the beginning of the film, “The Gift” may be a little too heavy on its foreshadowing and metaphors. Some shots are lingered on a little too long for effect, and one of the first shots of Bateman breathing behind a glass door to Hall, is a little too obviously a metaphor for their relationship. Nevertheless, all three of the actors play off each other with palpable tension, making the film riveting to watch, right up to its jaw-dropping final twist.