The Gift 15A
Thrillers like this usually go the same way. The shy loner who is taken in by a sympathetic happy couple and then – shock, horror - turns out to be a psycho, sending the thriller spinning off the rails and into a hokey action-orientated third act.
This must be a bugbear of Joel Edgerton’s too. Making his directorial debut (he also writes here), the Australian sets out not to write against this and, bar some questionable moments in the final act, deliciously plays with expectations in this slow-burning low-key thriller.
Bateman and Hall have recently moved to a new neighbourhood. He’s starting a new job while she’s getting her interior design business off the ground; they’re trying for a baby but so far no luck. One day they run into Joel Edgerton, a guy Bateman used to go to school with but, embarrassingly, is only vaguely remembered. After an awkward dinner date Bateman thinks it best not to meet up again but Edgerton starts calling around uninvited and leaving gifts at the door …
That’s a run-of-the-mill set up but then Edgerton starts messing with our heads. Instead of creeping the audience out with the antics oddball Edgerton, he turns his attention on the couple (Edgerton really being the manifestation at the problems at the heart of the marriage). Firstly there’s the hint that Hall suffers from panic attacks brought on by stress and secretly necks pills while her husband sleeps. And then there’s Bateman: okay, so Edgerton is a little strange and his advances smack of desperation but Bateman’s response to this cry for company is a gross overreaction. There’s obviously something more going on here.
Edgerton proves to be a patient storyteller, with all this slowly drawn out. There are more developments and turnarounds as backstories are fleshed out but Edgerton bides his time, only showing his hand after wringing out all the tension he can. He’s terrific as the creepy/lonely guy and it’s clear he put some thought into this character – his lines are delivered cautiously, like someone who has no confidence but trying to mask that in new company. Hall is her dependable self and Bateman, leaving the comic antics to one side, finds hitherto unexplored dramatic depths.
There are some unsure developments towards the close but unwrap this gift and you’ll be surprised.
Review by Gavin Burke | 17:01 | Friday 7th August 2015 | Movie Review