THE GIFT. Powerful, meaty and dense psychological thriller

Simon and Robyn are a young but very affluent couple.

Maciej Niedźwiedzki

29 January 2024

THE GIFT. Meaty psychological thriller

He holds a managerial position in a prestigious company specializing in anti-intrusion systems, while she is currently an inactive interior designer. We meet them during their move from Chicago to California. They purchase a spacious, modern apartment and plan to start a new chapter in their relationship. Both are thinking about having a child, knowing that offspring will solidify their marriage, and they feel the need to live for someone other than themselves. Robyn (Rebecca Hall) had a miscarriage a few months earlier, but now it’s time to try to conceive again. Signs of exhaustion are visible on their faces, and scars from a few louder arguments are apparent. The echoes of shouted words still resonate in their minds. Nevertheless, it seems that the tougher times are behind them, and they have finally overcome their challenges. Both have started looking into the future with optimism. Robyn has pushed the recent tragedy out of her mind, and Simon (Jason Bateman) has finally achieved the status of a provider.

They would have wonderful years ahead of them if Gordon (Joel Edgerton) hadn’t knocked on their door. Gordon is an acquaintance of Simon from their school days, a person who was mistreated and considered odd and introverted during his youth. Every class has someone like that, someone chosen as a target. Gordon is now strong and determined enough to seek revenge on his tormentors. The Gift

The Gift Joel Edgerton

It’s easy to see what Joel Edgerton was inspired by in his directorial debut. One of the influences is undoubtedly Roman Polanski’s cinema, especially his informal apartment trilogy: Repulsion, The Tenant, and Rosemary’s Baby. Edgerton similarly psychologizes space. Polanski placed his characters in tight and dark apartments that metaphorically represented the emotional state of the characters and conveyed their sense of mental imprisonment. Edgerton places Simon and Robyn in rooms full of light, windows, and mirrors. These spaces express their desire to cleanse their relationship, clarify all ambiguities, confess to minor lies and omissions. The new home visualizes their desired state of mind and, paradoxically, presents a false image. It also intensifies the feeling of oppression, as if the main characters are constantly being observed from the outside.

The Gift Jason Bateman Rebecca Hall Joel Edgerton

The Gift will inevitably draw comparisons to Cape Fear, whether the original or Martin Scorsese’s remake. Edgerton uses several techniques known from those films, creating a similar atmosphere of siege as the characters face similar problems. If you’re going to learn, learn from the masters.

Edgerton has clearly done his homework. He skillfully builds tension, slowly unfolds all the plotlines, and maintains psychological and narrative credibility. The Gift has several standout scenes. One such scene is the first dinner shared by Simon, Robyn, and Gordon. It’s a brilliantly written conversation, intelligent and unconventional. Each sentence has encoded meanings, and the true intentions of the characters are hidden behind superficial exchanges. We pick up on them between the lines and in the actors’ expressions.

The Gift Jason Bateman Rebecca Hall Joel Edgerton

The trio engages in a casual and non-committal conversation, pretending to be content with life and playing mind games, trying to find each other’s weaknesses. The scene is won through subtleties and details; the actors avoid theatricality and only occasionally raise their voices. The temperature gradually rises during this conversation, and Edgerton knows exactly when to stop. He knows when to put a period.

The Gift Jason Bateman Rebecca Hall

The Gift is a meaty psychological thriller that offers much more than the typical representative of the genre. At times, Edgerton tries a bit too hard to scare the audience in a conventional way, momentarily forgetting that silence is the most unsettling. However, these are minor faults in an unexpectedly successful film.

The Gift Rebecca Hall

Edgerton proves himself not only as a craftsman who can adeptly tell a story but also as a director of actors. Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall, at times, deliver outstanding performances—possibly their best roles in their careers. Edgerton is a capable actor, a good director, and an excellent screenwriter. Only now has he captured my attention.

Maciej Niedźwiedzki

Maciej Niedźwiedzki

Cinema took a long time to give us its greatest masterpiece, which is Brokeback Mountain. However, I would take the Toy Story series with me to a deserted island. I pay the most attention to animations and the festival in Cannes. There is only one art that can match cinema: football.

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