It’s extremely easy to draw comparisons between Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut The Gift and recent hit thriller Gone Girl. Both surface the underlying tensions of seemingly stable marriages. Both contain crazy characters. And both succeed at being thrilling thrillers. Whereas the grand scope of Gone Girl appeals to vast audiences and offers full-throttle thrills, the subtle intricacies of The Gift set it apart.
The Gift is what all good thrillers should be. It is cold yet warm, dark yet light, alien yet eerily close to home. Cinematographer Eduard Grau seamlessly instils a crisp touch of frost into an ultra-familiarised western world, right from the opening shot. Scenes blend from light to dark and everywhere in between, creating a mood reflective of the strained marriage of Robyn (Rebecca Hall) and Simon (Jason Bateman). In a sense, it is the enigmatic Gordo (Joel Edgerton) who casts the shadows, instigating conflict from outside the narrative’s central relationship.
While Robyn sees plenty of screen time, many will question her significance in a film which at first, appears to focus on a conflict between two men. Yet despite the film’s likening to Hitchcock’s Psycho, Robyn is more than a damsel in distress. She is our eyes and ears, our voyeur into the mystery of her husband and his hazy past. Robyn’s perspective adds a new dimension to Gordo, making this a far less straightforward thriller than initially expected. The trio thus have us questioning their every move, partaking in solving the mystery – and ensuring the unfolding horror show is all the more terrifying.
Edgerton is an auteur in the making, his quietly captivating thriller a neatly packaged gift to cinema-goers. Whilst it may lack the traditional Hollywood-scale shock factor, the film is far more balanced and emotionally absorbing than expected.