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The Gift - DVD Review

The Gift

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

Joel Edgerton’s first film as writer-director is a gift that’s definitely worth unwrapping.

A psychological thriller that harks back to the style of films like Pacific Heights and Cape Fear, this both embraces genre tradition while giving viewers something to think about too. It’s by no means as simple as first glances suggest.

When happy couple Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) move back to California, the former soon runs into former classmate Gordo (Edgerton) in a shopping mall. At first glance, Gordo is socially awkward and quietly spoken. But he seems genuine in his affection for Simon, even going so far as to leave a welcome gift at his home.

But Simon is reluctant to get too close to Gordo and, when pressed by Robyn, reveals that Gordo was considered a weirdo at school. He advises caution and distance. But Gordo is nothing if not persistent. And when Robyn starts to investigate more about both men’s histories, she uncovers some troubling revelations.

Edgerton’s film is notable for the way in which it works on several layers. On the one hand, it operates as a gripping psychological thriller that occasionally even dips its toe in horror territory. But it also functions as a gripping character study that has some relevant things to say about bullying and it’s after-effects. As such, it exists to challenge on a moral and ethical level, which only makes it more fascinating.

Gordo’s actions at first seem like the work of a bog standard Hollywood villain but the more you learn about him, the more you begin to sympathise. Similarly, Simon’s motivations become murkier.

Hence, while certain twists and plot turns can be guessed, Edgerton also has a certain amount of fun toying with those expectations. And he delivers a satisfying denouement.

He also creates a platform for his performers to excel. Bateman is especially good, combining the Everyman appeal he brings to a lot of his characters with something more darker. It’s good to see him being stretched dramatically.

Hall is also good as Robyn, her seemingly idyllic life slowly revealed to be false as past demons and fresh fears lead to a feeling of paranoia that’s cleverly conveyed. And Edgerton is great as Gordo, subtly testing viewers’ loyalties.

The Gift is therefore a genuinely smart thriller that thrives on its ability to challenge perception and provoke debate afterwards.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 109mins
UK DVD & Blu-Ray Release: December 7, 2015