There are some films that stick with you long after they're done. Everybody has those films. You see them, you love them and when the movie's done, they refuse to leave your mind. They've oozed their way into every nook and cranny of your brain and there's no escaping their thought. More often than not, this turns out to be a good thing. It gives you time to digest them. You get to think about what went on for just a little longer. I saw The Gift over a week ago and it's still oozing around in my mind, and when it comes to Australian theatres on the 27th, I can almost guarantee it'll ooze around your mind, too.
Written and directed by Joel Edgerton, The Gift follows the story of Robyn (Rebecca Hall) and her husband Simon (Jason Bateman). Happily married and hopeful for kids, the two move back to Simon's childhood town to get a fresh start in life. With a wonderful new house purchased, the two couldn't be happier. That's when they run into Gordo (Joel Edgerton), a high school buddy of Simon's who persistent on starting their friendship back up. However, things take a strange turn when Gordo starts being overly kind and just a little outside the norm. Providing them with plenty of gifts and visiting nearly every day, he seems friendly, but it's a one sided friendship. Simon and Robyn uncomfortable with his constant presence, they try to take things back a notch, but he's just getting started.
The Gift is a film that starts out as your normal, every day thriller. It's not bad, it's far from it, but it feels generic. Don't be fooled. The Gift is anything but generic, and Edgerton's screenplay does a mesmerising job at changing things up. You start out nervous, a little shaky even, but you're not too worried. You'll have images running through your mind of what's probably going to be going down in an hours time. I know I did. Then the film continues to go along, revealing more and more details about the plot and these characters, and my jaw progressively began to drop.
It does have its clichés here and there, but they're put in their, mostly, to mislead you, as an audience member. They're there to make you feel like you know where this plot is going, and then Edgerton completely pulls the rug out from under you and it's absolutely shocking. His screenplay is so rich and vibrant, getting you invested in these characters and then slowly pulling all of them towards the darkness, away from your safe nurturing. I could do nothing except watch as these characters I cared about were plunged into a state of no return.
I never once felt that Edgerton was behind the camera this entire time. There was never a moment in this movie where I said to myself "ah, that old cinema trick." For the entire runtime, this felt real. Edgerton managed to get me so invested in this film that I honest to God forgot I was even watching one. The events on screen never play out how they would in your run of the mill horror movie. No, they always feel unexpected and exciting. They're shocking and unpredictable and made me forget about reality entirely. That's one of the biggest praises I can give a movie.
As the story continued to unfold, I was constantly left hanging on a lose thread. When the ending comes around, that thread is cut, and I was left plummeting into a state where my mind physically exploded. It's an ending that left me emotionally distraught and psychologically manipulated. In a similar way to the ending of last year's Gone Girl, this ending will make or break the movie for people. For me, it most certainly made it. The problems people have with it are just ludicrous, for there's so much more to it than the haters bring up. It's an ending you certainly won't see coming.
Jason Bateman gives the performance of his career in this movie. There's no comedy to be found here. It's just a straight up psychological thriller with a performance so good, it left me shaking. As we get deeper and deeper into the plot, Bateman is allowed to play around a whole lot more than he could've at the start. His role is less restricting, and the result is fantastic. He may not be the central character of the movie, but he's certainly the standout. But this film primarily revolves around Rebecca Hall. She's the one home all the time. She's the one Joel Edgerton comes to visit the most. She's the one whose perspective we see everything from. And she's absolutely fantastic. Transcendence, be gone! The Gift is in town.
To sum up, The Gift, surprisingly enough, is the must see movie this August. It's a psychologically traumatising movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat long after the credits role. The leads are sensational and Edgerton's directing is priceless, and the ending had me shaking.
4 1/2 Stars