Going by its trailers, don’t mistake “The Gift” for a gory horror film or a run-of-the-mill stalker film. In fact, it is an interestingly layered psychological thriller, without a psycho. It takes you by surprise.
The film begins with a set of conventional tropes and then debunks each one systematically, scene by scene, letting the characters and the themes evolve naturally, than one might expect to see in a regular film. As the layers peel, you reach the heart of the story, only to realise that it was the journey that was more terrifying, as well as thrilling.
The narration starts off with a perfectly married couple, Simon and Robyn (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall) settling for a decent house in California. They are relocating themselves there, as Simon has got a new job.
After they have moved in, they go about shopping for their new house. While they are shopping, they happen to meet an old high school classmate of Simon named Gordon (Joel Edgerton). Their initial meeting is a bit awkward with Simon being aloof, but out of sheer politeness Simon takes Gordon’s number and says he will call him.
But the very next day, a “gift” appears on their doorsteps and it is from Gordon. A few days later, making it look innocuous yet uncanny, Gordon shows up unexpectedly when Robyn is home alone. Robyn invites him in and asks him to stay for dinner. When Simon arrives home from work they share an uncomfortable meal.
After dinner, Simon tells Robyn that he is unnerved with this intrusive “friend – who is delusional”. He also reveals to her that Gordon was referred as “Gordo the Weirdo” in school.
Following this conversation, the audience is totally seduced by the roles of each of these three characters. It is the secrets: the lies, riddles and manipulation in their relationships and how their personalities mutate, that give immense pleasure.
This is actor Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut, which is very impressive. As a screenwriter and director, Edgerton is clearly very sharp. He has an eye for detail, for he has very skilfully crafted the characters, which are compelling and complex.
Also, the plot has an aura of nerve-wracking tension throughout, keeping us guessing not just as to what will happen next, but as to who, at heart, all these people really are.
On the performance front, the film belongs to Joel Edgerton and Jason Bateman. Together they are a bundle of talent. Edgerton essays the role Gordon Mosey in style. He is eerie and manages to confuse the audience time and again as to who the real Gordon is?
He is brilliantly matched with Jason as Simon, who shifts from a genial husband and an affable corporate IT sales personnel to a smug patronising bully. And, caught between the two is Rebecca Hall as Robyn, who seems vulnerable, yet determined. With her simplicity, she manages to make her character too-trusting and believable.
On the technical front, the film has good production values. The camera work, the background score and editing are precisely noteworthy. With a couple of terrific jump scares, the film certainly has its share of actual fright, but the real terrors are in the mind.
The film is worth watching for its treatment.