4 stars
If you like watching a movie through your fingers, Joel Edgerton has the film for you. The Australian actor-writer adds another hyphenated role to his resumé in his first feature as director and (beware: groan inducing pun ahead), it is something of a gift.
It was only a matter of time before Edgerton stepped behind a camera. Having confirmed he can successfully pull off roles as disparate as Warrior's bruising boxer, a sophisticated cuckold (The Great Gatsby), Luke's Uncle Owen (Star Wars: A New Hope), a bruising brother in Animal Kingdom or an over-reaching Pharaoh in Exodus: Gods And Kings – he's also no slouch as a screenwriter; The Square, Felony, The Rover and now, The Gift to his credit. Matching a known talent for sharp narrative and snappy dialogue with, as it turns out, a daring cinematic eye, The Gift arrives as a highly accomplished thriller.

Edgerton's Gordo is a socially awkward blue collar who re-friends successful white collar school mate Simon (Jason Bateman - Horrible Bosses). Although it's an awkward, one-way relationship – Simon was never interested in Gordo – gifts begin appearing; a bottle of wine, new fish for the pond. Does Gordo have ideas about Simon's wife (Rebecca Hall - Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona), or is he simply guilting the couple into friendly behaviour? Is there a back story at play? Possibly. Probably. Then the fish mysteriously die, and Simon's dog disappears. Coincidence? Or do Gordo's plans run deeper, and nastier, than anyone realises? Maybe Simon's not the saint he appears to be... Finding out is where the fun is at.

The Gift is an extremely tidy piece of genre film-making: a major accomplishment for Edgerton. Here is the sort of film where you dread the wide-shot for fear of what is going to leap into frame. You dread the revelation for fear of what you'll learn about his characters. Fear, in fact, is the cornerstone of his story; made worse by the tangible reality in which it's set. Not doubt your life is not so different from Simon's, and no doubt there's a Gordo lurking in your secondary school past. The possibility of him suddenly leaping into frame is all too real.

Preying on those fears is what Edgerton does best, from both sides of the camera. His astute direction has crafted a genuinely creepy, anxiety inducing film with just the right measure of audience shocking thrills. You'll scream, he makes sure of that. On screen, his Gordo has just the right mix of creepy, put-upon looser that reveals, in glimpses, a razor sharp mind. Bateman and Hall are no less effective, perfect foils whose own colours emphasise the shock value of what unfolds. No mater who you sympathise with, Edgerton questions your response: would you have done that? If so, what kind of person does that make you?

Challenging stuff, best watched through your fingers.


Previewed at the Verona Cinema, Sydney, on 10 August 2015

A young married couple's lives are thrown into a harrowing tailspin when an acquaintance from the husband's past brings mysterious gifts and a horrifying secret to light after more than 20 years.
Jason Bateman
Joel Edgerton
Rebecca Hall

Joel Edgerton

Joel Edgerton



108 minutes

August 27, 2015
The Gift (2015) on IMDb
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