Rambling About The Gift (2015)

Nutshell Ramble

A seemingly smart and creepy thriller which fails the logic test at almost every turn.



Full Ramble

The Gift is a 2015 psychological thriller written and directed by Joel Edgerton. It stars Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, and Joel Edgerton. The film follows the story of a couple who move into a new home but are subject to some creepy occurrences by a man with an agenda of his own.

The Gift is paying homage to extremely good films but it lacks the intelligence and nuance those films possess. The director spoke highly of Oldboy and Cache as his inspirations but this film does not have the narrative and emotional heft of those masterworks. The film drops the ball right off the bat by making its characters really stupid. When one sets a character up by calling him a high ranking official of a security firm and then subjects him to stalking, a regular viewer can more than easily assume that the high-ranking official could have access to more ways of securing himself and his family. The characterization of the lead actress could have been improved by leaps and bounds. Her character seems way too implausible. The writer/director seems to think we live in a time where people open their doors willy-nilly to strangers. Every character’s level of thinking has been brought down by a bunch of notches to serve the plot progression.

There is a reason as to why one can notice these leaps in logic and flaws in storytelling. The reason being, the film moves at its own pace. It has a deliberate style of telling its story but when one chooses that style, one needs to have a watertight screenplay.  There is a reason Oldboy or Cache work. Those films choose to have the people who are tormented be proactive and not reactive. The Gift’s story makes the decisions of the characters seem futile as the story would go the same way even if the tormented couple were on the fence and made no decisions.

The acting and direction are the big winners coming out of this film. All three actors deliver good performances and are quite credible as their characters. The mood and the tone that has been set by the film work in its favor as well. The shots are well done and the somber score compliments it well. The characters are not given much character. All three of them seem two-dimensional, in all honesty. The film plays a lot of its story in the safe zone. The reason for the film existing seems extremely flimsy as the film uses the much-maligned tell don’t show rule. If the film had taken the extra step and gone into its story with daggers drawn, I would have enjoyed it to a higher extent.

As it stands, The Gift is a sanitized version of better films which have come before it. It is not quite gripping, not quite as smart as it thinks it is, not quite as creepy as it needs to be, it’s not a schlocky B-movie that I could switch my mind off to enjoy, but it does look great. I’ll give it that. One can easily find enjoyment while watching the film because it does have some good moments. But for me, this is just a damp attempt at a concept that could have been exhilarating.


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