The Gift is a taut psychological thriller, a surprisingly effective film that transforms a generic thriller template into a compelling web of characters and mind games. It uses conventional shots of shadowy corners and long hallways and dark rooms in order to set the mood, and then it plays on our expectations by slowly unraveling itself through its characters, not its plot. Yes, there are jump scares and plot twists throughout the movie, but the reason they have an impact is because the characters are well-written and well-acted. The first half of “psychological thriller” is more important to Edgerton here, and as a result, the second half is given a boost.
And speaking of Edgerton, he does a great job in his directorial debut, understanding the tropes associated with thrillers and how to play on them. He has a solid grasp on his character from both behind and in front of the camera, and he uses Gordo’s calm, enigmatic presence to build up the sense of unease permeating the film. That unease is built up through Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall as Simon and Robyn Callen, respectively, whose differing reactions to Gordo’s gifts lead to tension in the relationship. Gordo is not the center of the movie; Simon and Robyn are, and their responses to those aforementioned gifts drive the Gordo character and the movie as a whole. Hall and Bateman both give great performances here, and the fact that their characters are interesting to watch helps the growing tension immensely.
In the end, it’s difficult to review this movie fully without going into spoilers, but what I will say is that it tackles some interesting themes. Topics like popularity, power, social media, time, and the past have all been covered before, but the movie helps maintain a freshness to the proceedings with its heavy focus on character. Even though it isn’t as unpredictable or as clever as Edgerton wants you to think it is, it’s still a solid movie that’s well worth watching.
-The saying “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” is the driving point of the movie’s focus on glass. The windows, the shower door, the mirror…these all contribute to a sense of vulnerability and exposure, and they also further the movie’s point about Simon living in a glass house of his own (physically and metaphorically). In addition, when McDonald literally throws a stone and breaks the glass, it’s Simon’s action coming back to haunt him.
-When Simon says that some people don’t really change, he could very well be talking about himself.
-I don’t believe that Gordo raped Robyn. The point here is that the idea itself is already enough, and even though it’s extremely easy to find out who the actual father is, the mere act of asking for a paternity test would shatter things even more.
-I really like that final shot.
Photo credit: The Gift, Blue-Tongue Films, Blumhouse Productions