Reviewed by: Tober Corrigan
sins of the past / coverning them up and denying them
“…those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies…” —Matthew 15:18-19
lying in the Bible
gifts in the Bible
|Featuring:||Joel Edgerton … Gordo
Jason Bateman … Simon
Rebecca Hall … Robyn
Busy Philipps … Duffy
Katie Aselton … Joan
Allison Tolman … Lucy
David Denman … Greg
Wendell Pierce … Detective Mills
Beau Knapp … Detective Walker
“Just because you’re done with the past doesn’t mean the past is done with you.”
What if everything you thought you knew about someone, and what you thought they were capable of, turned out to be wrong? Hardly a new question in the world of movies. Endless are the ways in which films have given us red herrings and unexpected turns, only to reveal some shocking secret about a character’s true intentions or identity. Though, at times, there is fear of this feature directorial debut from Australian actor Joel Edgerton treading all too similar territory, its commitment to the surprises coming from character rather than plot make this a gift for any moviegoer looking for an above-average psychological thriller.
The film introduces us to Simon and Robyn, a young and financially successful couple—played by the committed tandem of Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall—who move into a new home in California. Simon, whose new job is the reason they left their Chicago home, is driven by the desire to work his way up the corporate ladder and be the prize-winning husband. Robyn seems satisfied, on the surface, with her role as a young housewife. Just another seemingly normal American couple living their seemingly normal American lives. But it is the surprise appearance of someone from Simon’s past, Gordo (a haunting and restrained Edgerton), which holds the power to threaten that sense of normalcy and security forever.
I’ll say little more about the plot, for the film’s great strength lies in knowing very little about the surprises the film has in store. As for moviemaking quality, Edgerton chooses to go for restraint and classicism, over blood and gore. Reminiscent of Hitchcock, “The Gift” goes for a slow burn approach to its mysteries and terrors. This should come as a welcome reprieve for those viewers sick and tired of the domestic thriller being reduced to modern day torture porn, such as the “Saw” franchise.
Despite the old-school nature of the filmmaking, the content is anything but. The f-word is used nearly two dozen times, among other foul language. Blood and sex are never shown explicitly, but much violence, sexual and otherwise, is implied throughout the film, getting only more psychologically gruesome as it goes. In the vein of any good psychological thriller, the pain and trauma of the characters easily becomes our own. This film can really hit home, and, for some, this may prove more hindrance than help.
The themes are extremely mature throughout, and the content, though never gratuitous, does reinforce that maturity. This film is not for the faint hearted or for the easily frightened psychologically.
However, if one is willing to sit through spurts of bad language and intense, implied horror, for the sake of a redemptive theme or a film that simply makes you think, then I have very good news. The film often plays around with the notion of justice, of someone getting their due for the evil they have committed in the past and tried to run away from. “The Gift” powerfully states that any life in denial of their sin nature can never really escape themselves. Matthew 15:18 gets a pretty solid hearing in this film, as lies are constantly revealed for the destructive forces they really are.
However, it should be noted that Edgerton never takes a definitive stance on the moral issues. Much of “The Gift” revels in its own ambiguities, perhaps leaving some believers discontent. However, I would suggest to take heart with the fact that, in times where only big explosions and superhero sequels seem to sell at the box office, a film like this can be made that chooses to, in no matter how terrifying a fashion, deal with matters of the human heart. It is both a nail-biting thriller and a wake up call to the ways in which we, in our own lives, try to hide from the shame of our worst sins, or worse yet, the ways in which we train ourselves to forget about them altogether.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Heavy to extreme—“Jesus” (2), “Oh G*d” (2), OMG (2), “My G*d” (1), “God” (1), “G*d-d*mn” (1), “Good Lord” (1), “hell” (3), f-words (24), s-words (15), SOB (2), “a**-hole” (6), “a**” (1), various vulgar slang words for sex and genitals / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
…A sly, effective throwback to '90s stalker thrillers. …hitting its genre marks in brisk, unfussy fashion and raising a few hairs on the back of your neck along the way…
—Jon Frosch, The Hollywood Reporter
…“The Gift” takes a masterful thrill ride into the unexpected… something more unique and unexpected than its marketing campaign might imply. …
—Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times
…Nothing vain about this project… The greatest chills come, not from a loud or unexpected noise, but rather when the film shows you something you’ve already seen and slyly insinuates: Something is different now; do you see what it is?… [3½/4]
—Chris Knight, National Post
…an excellent suspense thriller with a moral message, but ultimately evil still wins out in the end and there’s lots of strong foul language requiring extreme caution…
—Ted Baehr, Movieguide
…spine-tingling thriller… “The Gift” doesn't flinch from featuring immorality, yet delivers a moral message: that if you deceive and bully, there will eventually be furious fall-out and clear consequences. …
—Adam R. Holz, Plugged In
…Convincing creeper film gives slowly, keeping the audience guessing …[3/4]
—Brad Wheeler, The Globe and Mail