Well if we don’t have something a little bit different to sink our teeth into this week. The Gift is written… directed (debut).. AND stars Joel Edgerton and this would normally cause me to be a little wary as these types of films often come off like vanity projects, but credit where credit is due, he does a good job overall.
Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall have recently moved back to Bateman’s home town when upon bumping into an old school friend (Edgerton), a strained and one sided obsessive relationship begins to emerge that starts with… you guessed it… gifts. Motivations, history and secrets start to emerge as everyone is not who they seem.
Off the bat this won’t be for everyone. It is slow. Painfully slow at times but if you like psychological thriller/(mild) horror and are willing to invest the time into finding out the back stories and motivations of each character there is an enjoyable payoff.
Given it’s his directorial debut Edgerton absolutely nails the tone. It is creepy and absent but without needing any cliche’ setting and the camera’s slow panning through the oversized spacious house gives that real feeling of suspense and unknowing. The faint blur of something in the background and that noise that came from down the hall become more than just your typical cliche’ set up. This coupled with some completely genuine jumpy moments are made all the more effective the more you are immersed into our main characters stories in the creepy and awkward ambiance that’s going on.
Our 3 leads are all great in this. Bateman does his best straight role since Juno but the big props go to Edgerton and Hall. While all 3 characters bring an interesting and diverse personalities to the table, the way we are drip fed Halls past and Edgerton’s intentions are what keep this story interesting. It would have been easy for Edgerton to become the typical creepy loner stalker but actually portrays him in a way that you are a little bit sympathetic to him. This goes a long long way to developing an interesting dynamic between each of the characters. Really if the plot was written down it wouldn’t amount to much and this is a testament to the acting that goes on here.
Minor criticism along with how slow it is at times is that it was just a little too simple. A lot of elements they got right but it was missing something just a little bit clever to make this good psychological thriller a memorable one.
It’s not amazing but for what it is it succeeds in being a small creepy little thriller but is missing that ‘something’ to take it to the next level. Great performances all around, director Joel Edgerton’s first outing is one that is worth seeing if you like a psychological drama.