The past has a way of catching up with the present -- and sometimes it can be devastating.  This is the basis for The Gift, a psychological drama revolving around three people.
Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are a seemingly idyllic married couple.  They just moved from California into a beautiful new home, Simon is advancing at his new job, Robyn is working from home at her old job, and they're hoping to have a baby.  While out shopping, they run into Gordon "Gordo" Moseley (Joel Edgerton, who wrote and directed The Gift), who went to school with Simon.  They exchange polite pleasantries, and arrange to meet up.

The dinner is nice, even if Gordo is socially awkward.  Afterwards, he keeps leaving small gifts at the couple's house.  Robyn likes him and feels a little sorry for him, while Simon -- who remembers him as "Gordo the Weirdo" from high school -- wants him out of their life.  Then Gordo's behavior seems to become more extreme, strange things begin happening around the house, and Robyn begins investigating what happened between Simon and Gordo back in high school -- and what her husband is really like.

The Gift is a more subtle and effective thriller-drama.  The tension and mystery comes not from violence and dead bodies, but rather from how the characters interact and reveal themselves.  Jason Bateman is terrific, gradually transforming the ambitious, determined husband to a domineering bully (in high school he was known as "Simon Says" because everyone did what he wanted) who tends to steamroll his wife as much as Gordo.  Joel Edgerton does well making Gordo somewhere between likable, creepy, and very possibly dangerous.  And Robyn Hall fills out the cast nicely, as her Rebecca begins as damaged and grows stronger as her sympathy for Gordo parallels her growing suspicions about her husband.

The ending of The Gift may be slightly anticlimactic, but the movie manages a slow, effective build of tension and a mystery that is more realistic than many thrillers.  It's definitely worth seeing.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch

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