The Gift

 

starstarstarstar

 


The actor Joel Edgerton makes his directorial debut with a sly, gripping thriller that reveals unexpected layers.

 

Gift, The

Present tense: Joel Edgerton, Rebecca Hall and Jason Bateman

  

Joel Edgerton’s Gordon Mosley muses philosophically that, sometimes, “bad things can be a gift.” What he means is that we can actually grow stronger after all the bad stuff. The gift (lower case) is also emblematic of the peace offering Gordon makes to Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall), the new couple in town. But why should he be making a peace offering in the first place? The Gift (upper case), marking the feature directorial debut of Edgerton, recalls the lush, stylish thrillers of the 1980s, like Fatal Attraction. Except it may be even better. While fitting neatly into the domestic thriller template, its shocks are more surprising, its hidden depths more disconcerting – at least, more so than the usual fare.

 

As Gordon’s gifts, starting with an innocuous bottle of red on the couple’s doorstep, start to creep over from the sweet to the creepy, so Simon and Robyn start to question the foundations of their own marriage. This is clever stuff and the casting is just as shrewd as the rest of the package. Jason Bateman is perfect as the effortlessly likeable all-American husband, but there is a hint of sleaze clinging to his soft edges. And Rebecca Hall radiates intelligence, a perspicacity that can see beneath the cosy, welcoming platitudes offered her. And then there's Edgerton himself – an Australian actor perhaps best known for the films Animal Kingdom, Warrior and Exodus: Gods and Kings. As Gordo ‘Weirdo’ Mosley, he is sweet, damaged and inscrutable all at once. And the thriller that the actor-producer-writer-director offers us is as complex, gripping, elegant and unexpected as any we’re likely to see this year.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton, Tim Griffin, Allison Tolman, David Denman, Busy Philipps, Beau Knapp, Wendell Pierce, Nash Edgerton, Katie Aselton.

 

Dir Joel Edgerton, Pro Jason Blum, Joel Edgerton and Rebecca Yeldham, Screenplay Joel Edgerton, Ph Eduard Grau, Pro Des Richard Sherman, Ed Luke Doolan, Music Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, Costumes Terry Anderson.

 

Blumhouse Productions/Huayi Brothers Pictures/Blue-Tongue Films-Lionsgate.
108 mins. USA/Australia/China. 2015. Rel: 7 August 2015. Cert. 15.