8 / 10
You remember that guy you went to high school with who used to eat his earwax and in Year 8 accidentally went into the girls bathroom when everyone was watching? Yeh, well I hope you didn’t tease him too much about it because it’s absolutely possible that at some point in the future, he’ll break into your house while you’re out and kill your goldfish. If you don’t think you went to school with someone like that, it was probably you (no offence, don’t kill my fish).
This classic ‘bullied loner seeks revenge and kills your goldfish’ premise has been cleverly crafted into creepy suspense thriller The Gift.
In the aftermath of some family trouble, wealthy couple Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) return home to Los Angeles and buy a fancy new house, hoping for a fresh start.
One day, while shopping for Swedish homewares, they bump into Gordo (Joel Edgerton), an old schoolmate of Simon’s. Gordo, evidently a bit of an odd-ball (he’s shy but has an earring), remembers exactly who Simon is, but Simon’s all like “heyyy…. maaaate” and “good to see you…buddddy” before making a quick exit. “Awwwwkwwwaaaaard” he jokes with his wife as they walk away.
Awkward indeed. Because soon after, Gordo starts dropping by. Simon and Robyn’s fancy new house has a lot of big glass windows, and Gordo always seems to be on the other side of them. At first it’s just passing on a ‘welcome to the neighbourhood’ gift and then the obligatory ‘thanks for that gift’ dinner, but things quickly get creepy. Gordo’s just a bit odd, he says strange, vague things about the past, and seems overly chuffed about all the success that seems to have befallen Simon since school. Simon, meanwhile, has perfected the sideways eye-roll towards his wife.
(I’m aware that this is not Simon, it’s not even Jason Bateman. But no one rolls better than Stanley.)
Anyway, eventually, Simon gets jack of it all and decides Gordo’s gotta go. He carefully chooses the most offensive moment (dinner at Gordo’s) to tell Gordo that he’s cut from the friends roster. Ouch and uh-oh.
Popping a beer back home and patting himself on the back, Simon seems not to have noticed what we, the audience, are by now all too aware of – that hateful gleam behind Gordo’s black eyes, that dangerous glint from his single earring, that ominous music in the background. Weirdo Gordo has a dark edge.
Sure enough, soon after Gordo gets booted out of the friend zone, creepy stuff starts to happen. The aforementioned fish die. Doors seem to open and close by themselves. The dog disappears. ‘Did I leave that tap on?’ The dog reappears. But what’s that look in his eyes?? Where you been, boy?? Where. Have. You. BEEN??’
Then there’s another awks note from Gordo – he apologies for having misread the nature of their friendship, but also regrets that after all these years he and Simon were not able to just ‘let bygones be bygones’.
‘Ah…WTF does that mean?’ asks Robyn politely. ‘Nooooo idea,’ says Simon and changes the subject. Robyn is starting to smell something fishy. But that might just be the dead fish.
It’s all a bit too much for Robyn – she’s been very fragile since the move, is all alone during the day in this big, glass house, and, not unlike the other real housewives of Los Angeles, has ‘a bit of a pill problem’. Desperate for answers, she does a bit of snooping (with the help of another of Simon and Gordo’s ex-schoolmates, inexplicably played by Roy, Pam’s ex-fiancé from The Office, LoL). Robyn’s not thrilled about what she finds – Simon’s played it very coy about how well he remembers Gordo; they’ve got history that both would like to forget but Gordo, at least, is unable to.
And suddenly, for me and Robyn at least, nothing is as it seems. Maybe Gordo was just trying to be nice and heal old wounds? Maybe the fish just died? Fish die right? And the dog did come back after all… And maybe, just maybe… you did leave that tap on?
The Gift does a truly excellent job of making you question who you’re siding with. On the one hand, Gordo is for sure creepy. He has a pirate earring and you’re pretty sure he did kill those fish. But on the other hand, it’s obvious that Simon is a bit of a dick. Pill problems aside, maybe Robyn’s the only truly decent person in this whole sordid affair. I sure hope she’ll be ok.
The Gift will have you feeling uneasy and uncertain right up until the end, when you will just feel sick. You will spend the next three days urgently telling all school-age children that you encounter to be nice to the other kids at school. And, in the end, that’s what movies are all about, right?
Oh, and for the record, that whole Year 8 girls bathroom thing was an accident.