See, you’re done with the past, but the past is not done with you.”– Gordo.
Being spoken of in the same sentence as Caché, 2005 is quite something. Being compared to Michael Haneke’s highly cryptic and a political film is surpassing mere praise, with its themes and interpretation of colonialism, constant surveillance, and the insinuating character study, which first time director Joel Edgerton adorns his film with; it is then declaring in so many words that The Gift is an excellent thriller with the exploration of guilt, communication, and willful amnesia, also a broad political allegory about, and the metaphorical mechanism by which to pin the tail of colonial (Western) guilt on Gordon “Gordo” Moseley (a transformative, evocative and persuasive performance by Joel Edgerton).
The Welsh, Pharaoh Ramses (Exodus: Gods and Kings, 2014) can direct an impressive and formidable film, which is wickedly smart and a darkly unnerving tale of seeking identity and the lengths a man would go to, for his existence to simply (not so at all) be acknowledged, although not without jump scare; not too many, just one. Showers and women taking them and fogged up shower glass doors are best for jump scares. Just saying.
Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) move into a new house; a huge-ass new house with A View to Kill or a view to stalk or to watch Lynch’s Lost Highway, 1997.
The couple bumps into an old high-school acquaintance of Simon’s, at a ‘ready-to-assemble furniture’/home improvement store, something like ‘god Ikea‘.
The man, Gordo (Ramses) approaches Simon using body language that can be studied for hours. Edgerton (Black Mass, 2015) is an exceptional actor and a circumspect and a chary performer; with hands in his pocket, his back lowered and eyes full of anticipated rejection or humiliation and the expression that builds on his face as he musters enough courage to greet the Simons, are superbly nuanced and each step taken towards the couple is calculated. Simon and Robyn reciprocate with a lukewarm introduction, edging on dismissal, and quickly say their goodbyes, watching each other, frowning, as if they just met a clown who once entertained them at a birthday party.
Take care Gordo and thanks for reaching out.”– Says Simon as he exits the luxury furniture store, leaving Gordo to himself.
The direction, edging on serpentine and filling the atmosphere with tension and empathy (for the harmless and generous Gordo), is executed with much care. The smallest shift in emotion is captured, the truth is made to be doubted all along the almost familiar story (by Edgerton, again) however with kinks of its own and some pretty good card arrangement under the sleeve.
Jason Bateman is restrained and authoritative as Simon. I guess it was his character in Arrested Development, 2003 – ongoing, that landed him this part. In Development he is a man of reason, Michael Bluth is apparently the only person in Development who keeps his mind and is the rational and reasonable man in a family of highly dysfunctional people. Point being, here, in The Gift, Bateman keeps his calm and that signature facial expression he uses when he raises his eyebrows and bites his lower lip (Horrible Bosses, 2011, anyone?), and leaves without retaliation in the face of a domestic conflict or otherwise.
It takes a lot to keep it all inside even though the film was shot in a non-chronological order with Edgerton filming his own scenes first and wrapping them up in seven days. And Simon manages not to implode with all the unwrapping going on.
Rebecca Hall (The Prestige, 2006) has very short hair in this film. I prefer her with longer hair. I also prefer my blunts dipped in whiskey, and my whiskey to actually be vodka (if that makes sense, eventually everything will). Hall plays the titular grieving wife (although she hides it with immense resolution, which eventually breaks; it had to) and her character goes through many alterations during the 108 minutes run-time, and Hall’s descend into paranoia and distrust is deliberately-paced and absolutely convincing.
You are a fucking bully.”– Robyn
The Gift is a solid thriller, even though made for a mere five million dollars, and with enough suspense and a back-story to keep the viewers glued. The performances raise the film even higher and considering that this is Ramses’s first feature-length project, I say he has done a fabulous job of scaring the audience of the past catching up with them. Having said that the big reveal and the visuals coupled with it can go both ways; they can shock or satisfy, depending whose side the film has made you take.
A must want, I mean watch.
The Gift can be streamed on Netflix by clicking here and a Blu-ray copy can be bought from Amazon.com by clicking on the image above.