By Michael Reistetter
“The Gift” is a thriller by actor Joel Edgerton (The Great Gatsby, Warrior) in his directorial debut. What began as an unsettlingly quiet, soundtrack-less representation of a potential horror story turned into an epic mystery for the ages where moviegoers are left to debate over two possible interpretations of the film’s climatic scenes.
Edgerton wrote, directed, and starred in this under-the-radar vehicle from STX Entertainment. The film depicts a married couple named Simon and Robyn (Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall) who are struggling to conceive their first child.
Along with Joel Edgerton, comedic-man Jason Bateman gave a haunting performance. As Simon, Bateman offers a hybrid of the roles he usually takes on, and the hidden, monstrous personality an upstanding member of society can possess.
The film offers intense critique on various members of society, with its sensational execution of ambiguity as to whom you should and shouldn’t be rooting for to prevail in the end. Many travel to the movie theater and relinquish their creativity in the process, giving the filmmaker authorization to blatantly identify the heroes and villains for them early on in the narrative.
“If I wanted to be challenged, I would have just stayed home and read a book!” I heard someone angrily utter as I left the theater. Naturally, this film will give you headaches if you analyze it for too long. But those merely seeking simple and straightforward reveals in this film are out of luck.
The writing was extraordinary considering it is Mr. Edgerton’s first venture into the mass-markets with a full-length production. Many forget elements of screenwriting not only include script, but can also feature visual aids, manipulation of camera angles, etcetera.
I recently learned of a technique in literature commonly known as “The Chekhov’s Gun Principle.” Chekhov’s Gun is a dramatic tool guaranteeing both the usage of every element introduced into a narrative, and the removal of all non-essential elements. For example, if there is a gun present in the scene, it will eventually be used in some form.
Upon watching “The Gift” for a second time, I would strongly advise others who didn’t quite understand it the first time around to do the same. Those claiming there are various plot-holes have been mistaken.
There are no holes in Edgerton’s storytelling model. The only holes exist in the perplexed viewer, who has yet to adjust his or her mind to acknowledge the nuances of unorthodox structure.