A critically-acclaimed independent psychological thriller? Sounds like something I might like, though I’m not a Joel Egerton fan and he not only stars in The Gift, but also wrote and directed it.
From the start, The Gift didn’t connect with me. I kept having the feeling that I had seen the film before. I can only assume that this is because I saw the trailer one too many times and it basically covers the first half hour or so of the film.
The Gift stars Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall as Simon and Robyn, a young married couple who move into town and buy a house in the suburbs. It seems idyllic until Simon bumps into Gordo, an old acquaintance from high school. Gordo welcomes Simon and Robyn to town with gifts and shows up uninvited, leading to him sharing dinner with the couple. Simon is wary, but Robyn takes an interest in Gordo until he does one strange thing too many and Robyn learns of a dark secret from Simon and Gordo’s past.
There’s an interesting story here, with important questions about how responsible we are as adults for things we did in high school and about how the people we are in high school change (or don’t) as we mature and work through those challenging years. I almost connected enough with this theme, from my own past, to make the film work, but not quite, thanks to the film’s many flawed scenes, especially those involving Robyn and silly shock tactics that were completely unnecessary and out of place.
I suppose that part of the problem for me may have been that the story is too serious to make it into a typical psychological ‘horror’ film (i.e. I liked the understated parts of the film, but it kept trying to slide into melodrama). Gordo could have been much more interesting if the film had stayed with exploring the psychological impact of past experiences in a believable way.
The acting by the three leads is solid enough, as is the cinematography and score. And much of the atmosphere and camera work worked for me and showed some good direction. But, in the end, I felt disappointed and that The Gift is an overrated film that I’m not sure I would ever want to see again. I feel like I should give it ***, but once again my mug is nowhere to be found.