It’s Boxing Day, and for some, this means running out to sales across their city, finding the coveted gifts that Santa hadn’t left on Christmas Day. For others, though, it’s a day to catch up on sleep, watch movies, eat yummy chocolates and hang out in PJs. So for those planning to spend a day inside with a bowl of popcorn, I bring you this movie review to help with your Boxing Day movie pickings…
Perhaps the single most harrowing movie I’ve seen this year, The Gift explores the themes of toxic relationships, revenge and loss of innocence.
Directed by Joel Edgerton and released in 2015, the film follows the lives of newly married couple Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn Callum (Rebecca Hall). The film starts off with a relatively mundane plot line, featuring the couple moving into a familiar neighbourhood from Simon’s childhood. The couple, while shopping, meets Gordon “Gordo” Mosley (Edgerton), Simon’s old high school classmate.
After having dinner with Gordo at their new home, the Callums seem divided with their reception of Gordo’s presence. Robyn acknowledges Gordo’s strangeness but genuinely feels that he is a good guy. Simon, throughout the whole dinner, seemed uncomfortable as Gordo dug up forgotten tales of their high school days. Simon belittles their guest as much as he can to his wife after Gordo leaves.
Soon, Gordo drops off a series of gifts at the Callums’ residence, ultimately endearing himself to Robyn who truly believes that he is a misunderstood, kind soul. He buys them things, including koi for their pond, only for the koi to be found dead a couple of weeks later. Bojangles, the couple’s dog, mysteriously disappears after Simon confronts Gordo and physically assaults him in an attempt to stop disturbing the peace in his home. Amidst all this, Robyn has fallen pregnant (she’s had trouble conceiving in the past, so this pregnancy comes as a shocker to her). Her pregnancy adds more melodrama to the already darkening plot.
Caught up in a web of revenge and hatred, Simon’s inability to be contrite for his past wrongdoings, and Gordo’s persistent attempts to rekindle a past relationship that is better kept buried, leads the pair to end up questionably worse off than when the movie started.
However, the ultimate sufferer and scapegoat of these sinister plots reveals itself to be Robyn. She is completely unaware of the insidious secrets floating around her, and it is she that experiences the unmitigated effects of Simon and Gordo’s psychological mind games.
The Gift is shocking. It starts with clear expectations for the viewer: Simon is a personable character that the audience immediately identifies with. He’s successful, and smart, and he seems to be the kind of guy that you’d want to have a beer with over the weekend. Gordo, by comparison, is socially inept, and crass—not exactly someone who you picture enjoying a stimulating conversation with.
However, as the film continues, a series of events will cause the audience to question their preconceived notions of each character, leading to a surprising twist. Oddly enough, the film seems to have no clear hero, since both Simon and Gordo seem better suited the role of the antihero.
Despite the film’s seemingly predictable plot, the constant twists and surprises adds an element of psychological thrill to the grand scheme of things. It also makes for a really mind-bending watch, as the audience has to make use of their investigative properties throughout.
The Gift, similar to the themes found in The Prestige, leads one to arrive at certain questions: What lengths must one go through to exact revenge? Is exacting revenge, and deriving what little gratification that revenge offers, worth the ruin of many lives in the process?