The Gift - Think twice before opening the door - 3.25 stars

'Let bygones be bygones'

Walking into the cinema...
It looks like a thriller on the level of Hitchcock, but what is the real message of this film?  

Overall Rating: 3 stars
Cinematic rating: 3 stars 
Bigger questions rating: 3.5 stars      

                Moving house can be exceptionally stressful. For Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) their move is to get a fresh start for their lives. They are excited about the beautiful scenery and the new neighbours in the suburbs. He has a new job with a multitude of upward mobility opportunities and his beautiful wife works from home and makes herself busy setting up their new home. Yet, things in their new world are not as idyllic as they seem. As their story begins to unfold in this suspense thriller, as they look for new beginnings and put their pasts behind them, one of Simon’s former classmates comes into their lives through a chance encounter. As happens after 20 years, it takes time for Simon to recognise "Gordo" (Joel Edgerton) from high school, but eventually the familiarity becomes apparent and leads to a series of events that will test the relational depth of this young couple. Gordo begins leaving various gifts at their door; comes by unexpectedly and gradually exposes Simon's past sins. Mistakes he made in this life that he wishes would remain locked away. Gordo’s frequent visits grow in their level of cringe worthiness, but break through Simon’s facade and show his dark side. As their lives unravel, Robyn begins to question if she truly knows the man that she has married. The Gift provides insights into the twisted existence of mankind through past memories, current relationships and the potential for revenge.

              Joel Edgerton (Exodus: Gods and Kings) wears multiple hats in this outing in film-making by plying his hand at writing, directing and acting in this twisted tale. He develops the needed tension with haunting imagery and gritty character development. The filming had a Hitchcok-like flavour and each character was given a depth that uncomfortably unfolds with each new scene. The multiple layers of the story gave way to disturbing elements that deal with a topic that has plagued the human experience since Cain and Abel (Check out Genesis 4, if you do not know the reference). The script and direction provide the twists and turns that keep the audience off balance up until the disquieting end. Not wanting to give away too many plot points, this film will do for bullying what Fatal Attraction did for adultery. In this outing, Edgerton proves that he has the potential for multiple influences in this industry. 
            Jason Bateman (Hancock) stretches his acting skills and moves out of his comfort zone of comedy to an exceptionally serious role. His hauntingly effective and tragic portrayal as the supposed loving husband who proves to have a sinister past is convincing. Rebecca Hall (Transcendence) shows the vulnerability and naivety that is essential for this young wife, but it is the performance of Edgerton that truly delivers this troubling journey of revenge. He has the look and feel of the person in high school that no one seems to remember, but still manages to get caught in the crosshairs of the high school bullies. Also, he shows the patient demeanour that is needed to deliver the creepiness factor to garner awards ceremony attention. The storyline and performances are exceptional, but this film did leave a bitter after-taste on leaving the theatre. The story is exceptionally confronting and worth considering the bigger problems in society, but does not deserve the label of ‘feel good film’ of the year. 
            The Gift opens the door to a multitude of discussions on the topics of relationships, revenge, bitterness and forgiveness. The relational layers provide various glimpses into the human condition and what is both right and wrong with the world. The common thread that pulls the story together and causes the lives of this young couple to unravel is bitterness. This cinematic thriller causes an evaluation of how we treat people throughout our lives. Understanding that at different times we do make mistakes in our dealings with those that come into our orbit, the need for forgiveness is an essential part of life. For the sake of drama, genuine forgiveness was the missing component in The Gift, but does not have to be in real life. Is there anyone that you need to forgive or ask forgiveness of today?  

Leaving the cinema...
It is hard not to be deeply affected by a film like The Gift. Anyone who has been affected by bullying can relate to all of the characters in the film. It was well-acted and directed, but hard to enjoy. As a life lesson it was fantastic, as entertainment it was disheartening. 

Reel Dialogue: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film? 
1. What does the Bible say about revenge?  (Proverbs 24:29, Romans 12:19)
2. What does the Bible say about bullying? (Proverbs 6: 16-19, Matthew 5:43-48)
3. What value does forgiveness offer? (Luke 6:37, Ephesians 4:32)

Written by Russell Matthews based on a five star rating system @ Russelling Reviews #russellingreviews #thegift

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