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Review: The Gift

Ros Hull

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. imdb

Joel Edgerton – I mean, really?

He is a good looking, talented, regularly employed actor but that’s not enough – he has to also be an incredible writer, best friends with his brother (can’t even cite sibling rivalry as a chink in his image) and now, according to several US critics, well on his way to his next career as an important director! He looks even better when he is super fit (Warrior) and really rocks a suit, even when he’s the villain (The Great Gatsby).

When his character asks Jessica Chastain’s if they did the right thing in Zero Dark Thirty, it was the one moment that redeemed that film for me, and then there is Animal Kingdom. If you haven’t seen it, find it and watch it. Now.

Now Edgerton has written, directed and produced this film, The Gift. In the US, with US backers. Ticket sales have cleared eight times what it cost to make, according to imdb (I really want to insert a wicked laugh here – hello big studios, this is how you do it).

But enough gushing – what about the film itself? The first thing to note is that it is now only playing at a couple of Canberra cinemas so don’t delay, see it before you miss it.

The story is terrific. It builds from the normal, the everyday, to a point where you are questioning the truth of everything you see. If you can imagine a Hitchcock movie without an icy blonde in the middle of the action, it is a lot like that.  There is not a lot of blood or violence but tension builds, wow – it builds. There is one moment (can’t say when) that made myself and several other women in the audience scream out loud (sorry fellow movie goers). It is a real Hitchcock / De Palma moment.

The three principal actors are all terrific – great to see Jason Bateman getting down to some drama, great to see Rebecca Hall in a meaty role – I believed their character portrayals. The settings are well chosen and really well used. The mid-century, lots-of-glass style house really adds another dimension to the tension.

I will say that the flow, and maybe the directing, are not seamless but after directing only two shorts this is an amazing first feature. All those years of working on wonderful short films with his brother Nash Edgerton might have helped. Nash appears in a small role in The Gift too.

There is an echo back to a style of film that reached it zenith in the 1960s but there is also a modern voice. The ambiguity of opposing stories of the past, of bully and victim, is played with deftly and with great skill.

It is also not just a popcorn film – seen and forgotten. We were still discussing the ending, and recalling moments that, with hindsight, meant something else entirely, two days later.

Ros Hull

Ros saw Star Wars and immediately wanted to fly the Millenium Falcon. Unable to do that she became a Jill-of-all-trades as her army husband whirled her around the world – and back to Canberra 10 years ago. She has worked in public programs and museum education ever since. She gained an MA in writing whilst getting two daughters through high school - both are now at university and undeniably fabulous (according to her). She can worry as an Olympic sport so she sees lots of movies instead. More about the Author

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