This is my review of The Gift [Blu-ray].
This well-acted psychological thriller, original in its unpredictable plot, manages to build a sense of menace through a threatening atmosphere rather than brutal violence. It is like a subtle version of a Hitchcock film.
In the opening scenes, Simon and Robyn appear to be a happily married, affluent couple in the process of moving into an up-market house in the Californian hills – attractive if you don’t mind the sense of exposure from surrounding trees pressing in on the expanses of floor-to-ceiling windows. A chance meeting with a former schoolmate Gordo, whom Simon does not at first recognise, is the dramatic trigger. As Gordon becomes increasingly intrusive with his uninvited appearances when Robyn is alone, and his over-generous yet unwanted gifts, Simon indulges in very realistic, jokey conversations with their new circle of friends over how to deal with “Weidro Gordo” whereas the more sensitive Robyn feels sympathy for him. Gradually, Simon is revealed as dominant and ruthlessly ambitious, Robyn appears vulnerable, possibly disturbed and dependent on her husband’s protection. How well does she know the man supposedly so close to her, and can she trust him? What is the truth? What makes some people winners and others losers? What exactly is “the gift” of the title?
Although as is often the case, aspects of the denouement are unclear or even implausible, the ending is very effective in leaving matters open to the viewer’s individual interpretation, and even in playing with one’s emotions to switch sympathy in inexpected directions.
A film to which I brought low expectations turned out to be gripping and thought-provoking. I was also interested to note that the excellent actor, Joel Edgerton, who plays Gordo was also writer, producer and projector for the project.