AFTER A CREEPY FUCKER like Gordo shows up at your front door, bearing a suspiciously wrapped gift, you might never answer the door again. The Gift's writer, director, and star Joel Edgerton is that redheaded weirdo on the doorstep, staring in like an overeager puppy at the home of Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall). The successful couple has recently moved back into Simon's hometown of Los Angeles, right into a glass-studded dream house. There Gordo lurks, a forgotten acquaintance from Simon's halcyon high school days, who seems to have a beef with the jocular former class president and a growing crush on Robyn, Simon's fragile new wife.
Unlike frothy '80s stalk-porn like Fatal Attraction, The Gift is a slow-seething psychological thriller that takes its characters through unexpected layer peels as their triangle gets ever pricklier. How fragile is Robyn, really? How charming is Simon? And how damaged is Gordo? It reveals an intimate, troubled portrait of a new marriage with power struggles that run deep—especially when they barrel head-first into Gordo's persistent need to revisit his past with Simon, in what devolves into a race to the bottom between the two men.
Besides delivering a suspenseful and smart debut film, Edgerton's hailing accomplishment might be casting Hall as Robyn. Ostensibly a pawn for awkward Gordo and high-handed Simon to tug at, Hall's Robyn is an intriguing cypher, pleasant-faced and unknown. But soon, she's dragged down into Simon and Gordo's escalating shitstorm. Throughout, she's cool, calm, and seemingly elevated above the pissing match, but in no way left unscathed.
Like a '70s-era character study, The Gift has no qualms about leaving its characters alone and jaded and far, far worse off than when they started—and we, as an audience, are more than willing to follow into those shadowy corners. Those dark hidey-holes are where all the juiciest secrets hang out in The Gift. It's an unsettling joy to watch this Trojan horse get unpacked, with its gifts of recrimination, machination, and torment.