The Gift is a slow, intense thriller that builds suspense with every moment. Right from the beginning I found myself anticipating a surprise. The surprises did come, and were made all the more interesting because of the “ordinariness” of the situations in which they occurred.
Husband and wife, Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall), move from Chicago to California. They buy a large house on a hill and begin to settle into suburban life. While Simon starts a new job Robyn does some freelance design work from home and recovers from a past failed pregnancy. Gordo (Joel Edgerton), an old school acquaintance of Simon’s, makes an appearance and initiates a peculiar relationship with the couple. When he starts leaving seemingly thoughtful and ordinary – but nevertheless unasked-for – gifts on their doorstep, tension builds and questions start being asked.
These “ordinary” opening scenes, as well as that of the closing scene, are a little too long and slow, but are compensated for by the marked development of the main characters. All three are superbly acted by Bateman, Hall and Edgerton, respectively. Simon is the quintessential successful American businessman and good husband. Robyn is a sweet, uncertain woman, willing to see the good in others. She remains hesitant around her husband though and is obviously struggling with her loss. Gordo is an odd and inappropriate man, who has an agenda behind his friendship.
Elements of the past of all three begin to surface, with that of Simon and Gordo being the focal point. Robyn is simply an innocent bystander and her innocence serves to highlight the dirtiness of the men’s lies and bullying.
I cannot give more of the plot away for fear of spoiling the experience for viewers. This is a thought-provoking thriller, made all the more shocking and pertinent by its “ordinariness”. As an aside: there is hardly any swearing in this movie!
A very good film The Gift opens at cinemas in South Africa on Friday 11 December.