The Gift made its debut in theaters last Friday, and was met with high ratings and praise. The movie received a 7.4/10 on Rotten Tomatoes, and The New York Times calls it “a superior specimen.” Basically, movie critics loved this film, and with good reason. It was smart, it does keep you on the edge of your seat. It was far from a feel-good movie. But it wasn’t necessarily scary, and it didn’t quite achieve “unsettling” for me. It was simply a very, very uncomfortable movie. Here is a quick review without too many spoilers.
The Gift was directed and written by Joel Edgerton, who also happened to star in the film as the generous stalker, Gordo. Jason Bateman plays the protagonist, Simon, a business executive who has just moved back to his hometown with his wife, Robyn (Rebecca Hall). The couple seems happy as they decorate their new home together. But just as they’re settling in, Simon and Robyn run into Simon’s old classmate, Gordo, whom Simon doesn’t immediately recognize. They exchange phone numbers, promising to get together some time to catch up.
Later, Robyn is at their new home, which is beautiful, and seems to be made solely of windows. She’s home alone a lot while Simon is working. The couple moved from Chicago to California for Simon’s career, but Robyn seems to have left her successful design career behind. She finds a note on the doorstep with a bottle of wine – a gift from Gordo. But how did he get their address?
It’s a question they seem to let go pretty quickly. After all, it was such a nice gesture. Days later, Gordo shows up at the house out of the blue, while Simon’s at work. Robyn answers the door after seeing him through the window (as if she has a choice, he can see her through the giant windows), and she thanks him for the gift and invites him in — she has dinner on and Simon should be home soon. The three eat the most awkward dinner ever, Gordo drunk on wine and reminiscing about high school. He seems to remember everything about Simon, though the two were far from friends.
We find out that Simon was a pretty popular guy in high school. Gordo notes that he always knew Simon would make something of himself, and that he is so, so happy for him about his great job, great house, great wife. Gordo proves to make everyone uncomfortable, including everyone in the theater, because everyone knows a guy like him. He’s very nice, but extremely socially awkward. The conversation is one-sided, and Simon neglects to inquire about Gordo’s life since high school.
The couple soon receives another sweet, too-generous gift. Simon is getting fed up with Gordo’s behavior. He explains to his wife that in high school, Gordo was known as “Gordo the weirdo,” and he hasn’t changed much since then. He wants nothing more to do with him, and when Gordo invites the couple over for a dinner party, he wants to refuse. Robyn, who might be too sympathetic to Gordo’s position (she hints to being bullied as a kid), accepts the invitation, and they attend. They have an extremely awkward time together, and finally, Simon tells Gordo that they don’t want to see him anymore.
Gordo retaliates by killing their fish and stealing their dog. Robyn becomes increasingly on-edge. She is afraid of Gordo showing up unannounced, but she’s also dealing with extreme guilt for her husband’s harsh rejection to Gordo’s friendship. She’s also tormented by Gordo’s haunting letter, one addressed to Simon, which says he was willing to “let bygones be bygones.” Robyn wonders what her husband did to Gordo back in high school.
The Gift will make you question who’s side you’re really on, and will leave you feeling uncomfortable for hours after leaving the theater. And it could have you wondering how you’ve impacted the lives of others you thought were in the past, because “You think you’re done with the past, but the past is not done with you.”
To me, this movie earns a 4/5 star review. It was a thriller with an insightful message. It wasn’t all cheap scares and shower scenes (although there were some of those), it was slow, building discomfort that keeps viewers on the edges of their seats. The first half of this movie is fantastic; I was captivated as Simon’s past unfolded and his true personality started to reveal itself. I can’t give this movie a perfect review because I didn’t find the ending believable, so all that suspenseful buildup just kind of fell flat for me.