In his feature directorial debut Joel Edgerton delivers intelligent thrills all the way through The Gift, an unprecedented anomaly in the stalker film genre.
Simon (Jason Bateman, Arrested Development, Zootopia) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, The Prestige) are a young married couple just starting to get comfortable in their new home. Then Simon runs into Gordo (Joel Edgerton, Loving, It Comes At Night), a high school acquaintance whom he doesn’t remember at first. He seems like a friendly, albeit socially clumsy, guy during his first few pop-ins, even being courteous enough to bring considerate gifts. But his increasing intrusiveness sets off a chain of events that not only causes the married couple’s life to unravel but also presses Robyn to probe her husband’s past and uncover his so-called acquaintance with Gordo.
It’s difficult to talk about what makes The Gift — directed, written, and co-produced by Edgerton — a superb film without spoiling critical details, but I will certainly try. Most obvious is how it surpasses similar competitors by keeping you engaged with its smartly executed storyline. To put it another way, it doesn’t resort to using all those other plot devices of the campy, exploitative, or plain nitwitted variety, the ones you will find in most any other stalker thriller. Instead, the unpredictable story slowly builds up tension and bonds us with a trio of surprisingly three-dimensional characters portrayed by ace actors. The plot twists, rather than being tossed in and turning the whole movie into a deus ex machina situation, add thoughtful layers to the storyline. Gordo’s gifts, of course, hold a central role in the plot, signifying its menacing progression all the way up to his final offerings. Even the movie’s last shot sent one more small chill running through my body.
And that is all I can say about The Gift without ruining the mystery. Just make sure you watch it whether or not you’re into stalker thrillers. If only all of them could be as sharp.
Windup score: 97/100