I’m going to start off this review with the most important thing I can tell you. If you haven’t already, DO NOT watch a trailer for this film. If you watched it on my Facebook page, I apologize. I also would avoid all reviews for this film, except this one of course. The trailers and reviews are all giving away one very important aspect of the film that should be a big surprise. I’m obviously not going to spoil that here, but for some reason everybody else is.
This movie is about an ambitious businessman named Simon (Jason Bateman) and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) who move back to the area where Simon grew up after several years away. Soon after the move, they encounter Gordon, a man from Simon’s past. When Gordo starts to come on a little too strong, Simon decides it is time to set some boundaries. That’s all I’m going to say because that is all you need to know about this movie right now.
The story of this film is Joel Edgerton. Not only does he deliver a terrific performance as Gordo, one of the best of his career in fact, this is also his writer/director debut. You wouldn’t know it. This is a very well-directed film. I honestly can’t think of a more technically sound directing debut. Although methodical, this is a very well-paced film that took a lot of discipline to handle correctly. It is totally psychological and the subtle interactions between the characters are expertly captured by Edgerton. He does a fantastic job of showing characters reactions to dialogue. Instead of focusing on the character delivering the dialogue, he focuses instead on the faces of the characters reacting to it. That technique is very effective in a psychological thriller like this. I was very impressed by this directorial debut. The screenplay is also very good and focused. It stays within itself and never tries to do too much.
The tension in the film relies on the interactions between the three main characters. The tension is there because the relationships between the characters absolutely work. They seem like real people. While part of the credit has to go to the screenplay for creating these characters, the most important aspect of this in my opinion, is some very fine acting. Jason Bateman is great in this film. I usually do not like him, but this is by far the best performance of his career. Rebecca Hall is wonderful as the only somewhat grounded character in the film. Great acting and characters are so important in a film like this and The Gift has both in spades.
If I’m really nitpicking this movie, and I have to if I’m gonna find very many flaws to talk about, I could have shaved a few minutes off of the runtime in unnecessary scenes. Things like showing characters brushing their teeth or exercising didn’t seem to serve much purpose in moving the plot along. Also, the creepy, “is somebody in the dark hallway”, type scenes got a little repetitive at a certain point. These are small issues in a very good film, but they are issues none the less.
The ending of the movie was almost great. The problem that held it back was that it was too deliberate. The whole film had been very ambiguous and then a deliberate ending took me out of the movie a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, the ending was very effective. I just didn’t totally buy it completely.
The Gift is everything I hoped it would be and more. It is a very impressive writer/director debut for Joel Edgerton. It is a film that had a lot of effort and care put into it and that is something that I value a great deal. If you like psychological thrillers, this is the one. Along with Ex Machina, this is one of the most thought provoking films of the year. The Movie Man gives it 4 out of 5 stars.
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