DIRECTOR: Joel Edgerton LEAD CAST: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton SCREENWRITER: Joel Edgerton PRODUCER: Jason Blum, Joel Edgerton, Rebecca Yeldham EDITOR: Luke Doolan MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans GENRE: Mystery thriller CINEMATOGRAPHER: Edward Grau DISTRIBUTOR: STX Entertainment LOCATION: United States RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
Technical assessment: 4
Moral assessment: 2
CINEMA rating: V14
MTRCB rating: R13
A nice house in an upscale Southern California neighborhood signifies a fresh start for the marriage of former Chicago residents Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall): he for a step up in his career ladder and she with an eye towards motherhood. Their newfound bliss is threatened by the emergence of a character from Simon’s past, a classmate named Gordo (Joel Edgerton) who intends to reestablish connection with Simon who in turn hardly remembers him. Despite the subtle snub Gordo persists, and like a welcoming neighbor leaves little gifts at the couple’s doorsteps until he becomes a virtual part of their lives. Simon bristles at Gordo’s annoying presence but Robyn thinks he is harmless.
The Gift is Edgerton’s project, his directorial debut for a feature; and he also writes the screen play besides playing a major role in it. Outside of Edgerton’s skill at being a first-time helmsman, the film’s main strength is the plot which unfolds as a forceful real-life drama among characters who are so real they could very well be your neighbors. The finesse with which Edgerton dovetails the cast’s razor-sharp acting with the story’s twists and turns proves that a low-budget, slow-burn thriller can be a compelling stand-out in a marketplace filled with the razzle-dazzle of fantabulous superhero movies and slick spy flicks. Edgerton shows promise as a director, unveiling shades of the suspense master Hitchcock through his adeptness at tweaking the audience’s expectations into unpredictable directions.
While The Gift banks on edge-of-the-seat elements to sustain audience interest, the director’s propensity for startling and unnerving the viewer must not daunt us into accepting the film as mere atmospheric cinema. The Gift flaunts its ambiguities, and Edgerton, who takes the material seriously, nonetheless chooses not to take a definitive stance on the moral issues in envelops. Much as CINEMA wants to raise questions or to make clear moral pronouncements on the movie’s conclusion, it cannot do so without uncovering things that must be left under wraps for viewers to discover and ruminate on. Suffice it to say that The Gift is a powerful tool to spur us to examine the lengths to which human beings would try to numb themselves from the shame of their darkest sins.