What it's about:
Can you really go through life having never wronged anyone? Even if you are unaware of how, or when, and even whom you may have wronged, chances are there is someone out there who won’t ever forget it, or forget you. Simon and Robyn are a young married couple whose life is going just as planned, until a chance encounter with an acquaintance from Simon’s high school sends Simon and Robyn’s world into a harrowing tailspin. Simon doesn’t recognise Gordo at first, but, after a troubling series of uninvited encounters and mysterious gifts, a horrifying secret from the past is uncovered. As Robyn learns the unsettling truth about what happened between Simon and Gordo, she starts to question: How well do we really know the people closest to us, and are past bygones ever really bygones?
What we thought:
Many of those who have been bullied in their life understand the emotional scars it leaves, still visible many years later, some more deep than others.
Thankfully my bullying ended just after primary school, but it still sometimes hurts thinking back. Luckily, my bullies grew up to be better people, and although I don’t have any revenge fantasies, if something someone did in their immaturity affects the rest of your life forever, I can easily imagine living with that grudge.
The Gift follows those deep scars from a past long gone, swept under the rug by ego but brought to light when your past refuses to stay swept.
An ambitious businessman (Jason Bateman) and his wife (Rebecca Hall), recovering from a mental breakdown, move cities for a new start, and to expand their family. While out shopping they run into an old classmate of his, Gordo (Joel Edgerton), who seamlessly inserts himself into their lives. He leaves them gifts, until those gifts start turning into tricks for a wrong done many years ago, souring the couple’s relationship as paranoia takes hold.
This is the kind of thriller where you think it’s going one way, but a surprise (a gift, if you will) is around every corner. Not only does the antagonist chip away at the psyche of the protagonists, but he also chips away at the audience’s perception of the apparent hero, turning and twisting his own beliefs against him.
The character development is incredibly clever, at first very subtle until a person is suddenly someone completely different. Your loyalty to the characters changes from the one to the other constantly, until you are left with a confused understanding and disgust for the actions of Gordo. It also asks the question, “How long does it take for emotional wounds to heal?” Depending on whose side you are this can differ from person to person, from bullied to bully.
The Gift is a passion project and directorial debut of Edgerton, who not only pulled off the trifecta of writer, director and producer, but also played the calculated loner-turned-stalker. A feat not easily achieved, Edgerton crafted this thriller with the skill of Michaelangelo, using everything in his arsenal from not just his actors and the dialogue but also from thought-out set design and fantastic sound editing that made your heart race at the smallest sounds.
Hall and Bateman were also outstanding in their performances, both fluidly moving together as a couple going through their ups and downs. At first you believe their relationship to be equal, but as the story develops that power dynamic is revealed to be one-sided, shifting as the paranoia intensifies, and cycle of bully and bullied continues.
Ultimately, The Gift shows what a rumour can do to someone’s life, that the words of a bully can have repercussions decades later and that the smallest suggestion can poison the strongest mind. If you want a film that will give your brain a good exercise session, this is it.
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