Looking Back at 2010s Films: The Gift (2015)

1 Oct

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By Tanner Smith

Continuing my series of posts about 2010s films I really like, Joel Edgerton’s “The Gift!”

So, there’s a guy who comes into the lives of this couple, he seems harmless to have around, but he oversteps his boundaries one time too many, and when the couple tries to shoo him away, he just keeps coming back and things get really sinister from there… If it were that simple, then Joel Edgerton’s psychological thriller “The Gift” wouldn’t be worth talking about. Instead, it’s a well-crafted domestic thriller with a well-developed mystery and a haunting message about karma.

A couple (Simon and Robin, played by Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall) relocates to California following a lost pregnancy. Not long after moving in do they meet Gordo (Joel Edgerton), who Simon knew from high-school. He’s a nice enough guy, he does favors for them (some big, some small), he…keeps showing up at their house, bearing gifts…while Simon’s at work and Robin’s alone… Robin’s nice enough to welcome him, but Simon’s ready to get him to shove off. It seems like a little conflict that’s going to resolve itself, until you realize that this is actually deeper than we imagine, as Robin does some investigating to discover what Gordo means when he tells Simon that he was “willing to let bygones be bygones all these years.” What does that mean? Did something happen between Simon and Gordo long ago? If so, what was it? Is this opening an old wound that’s coming back to haunt them? The questions keep piling up and the answers reveal more disturbing revelations than a mainstream audience might expect.

Edgerton, in his filmmaking debut, is not interested in cheap thrills or conventional scares. He focuses more on the psychological path the story takes; he builds tension from a very basic fear: that not everyone can be trusted, not even your own spouse. It’s that kind of uneasiness that keeps the film going at a good pace, and it’s aided by solid filmmaking.

I HAVE to talk about the ending to “The Gift” and what it could possibly mean. So, SPOILER WARNING!!!

So, as we find out midway through the film, it turns out Gordo’s life was ruined after Simon, who was a bully in the same high-school he attended, made up a disturbing lie about Gordo that everyone believed. It was a fabrication that got out of control, which caused Gordo’s father to nearly kill him and ship him to military school. And now it seems Gordo wants payback after all these years, and Simon isn’t willing to accept any kind of responsibility for what he did; he’d rather be rid of anything from his past.

Simon’s still a bully. He pushes Robin around, he thinks he can control her because she’s emotionally unstable, he beat up Gordo after he was told to apologize to him, and he’s STILL making up stories, this time to screw over workplace rivals. Someone should show him how it feels…

The ending of “The Gift” is BRILLIANT. Simon receives some final gifts from Gordo, all of which indicate that Robin’s newborn child is actually Gordo’s, about nine months after Gordo seemingly raped her when she suddenly passed out alone in the house. By that point, Simon has already lost his job due to his boss finding out about his latest work lie and Robin wants nothing to do with him anymore now that she knows what kind of person he is…and now it seems that the new baby may not even be his. Just when we’re ready to accept this cheap shock of an ending…Gordo removes an arm-sling we were led to believe was from from Simon’s beating, and he walks away, leaving it behind…

That one little gesture fixed everything! It leaves the whole revelatory ending open to interpretation, that if Gordo lied about his injuries…maybe he lied about the rape too…

It’s much better than the alternate ending, which does state all. It clearly states that Gordo made the whole thing up just to mess with Simon as payback to show what a lie can do to people. He never raped Robin, he cut himself severely, and he just used little tricks of knowledge to mess with Simon’s head. See, that’s what I thought, but I’d rather it be left ambiguous, which thankfully it was.

You know what the scariest thing about the film is? When we really think about it, we realize that we can see ourselves in any of the characters, both the bully and the bullied. I don’t mean we’ll hurt anyone or those we’ve hurt in the past will do any of the things Gordo did, but “The Gift” is a film that reminds us that we as people can be pushed over-the-edge, either by regrets or by seeking closure or simply from answers about the person you thought you knew before.

Joel Edgerton made a really good first film, and his follow-up film, “Boy Erased”…I’ll get to that one soon enough.

One Response to “Looking Back at 2010s Films: The Gift (2015)”

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  1. Looking Back at 2010s Films: Boy Erased (2018) | Smith's Verdict - November 4, 2019

    […] the second directorial outing for Joel Edgerton, whose previous film, the psychological thriller The Gift, definitely impressed me. Edgerton knows and loves movies and he knows what it takes to get […]

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