Westport News film critic Susan Granger reviews the new movie, “The Gift:”

Australian actor Joel Edgerton (“Animal Kingdom,” Warrior,” “The Great Gatsby”) makes an auspicious directorial debut with this taut psychological thriller.

It begins as Simon (Jason Bateman) and his sensitive wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) buy a mid-century modern, glass-encased house in Los Angeles, near the suburb where Simon grew up. They’ve moved from Chicago because Simon has a lucrative job opportunity as a sales executive at a computer security company.

While shopping for home furnishings, they encounter creepy Gordon Mosely (Edgerton), who attended high school 20 years ago with Simon. Back then, Simon dubbed him “Gordo the Weirdo,” and his sad, lonely demeanor is still oddly ominous.

Inordinately eager to become friends, Gordo leaves a bottle of wine on their doorstep and stocks the koi pond near their front door with fish. To Simon’s dismay, he continues to drop by on one pretext or another when Simon is at work and Robyn is at home, where she does interior design via the Internet.

Eventually, Robyn sympathetically insists they accept a dinner invitation to Gordo’s expensive house, an evening which ends awkwardly with Simon declaring, “We would prefer that you don’t visit us anymore.”

But it’s not that easy. As Gordo says, “You are done with the past, but the past is not done with you.”

Do people really change with the passage of time? Can bygones ever be bygones?

Writer/director/producer Edgerton has crafted an intriguing story, exploring the malevolent consequences of teenage cruelty and ruthless bullying. Although there’s a scary moment in the shower when the viewer inevitably jumps, the slick, stylized tension builds slowly as the disturbing truth is gradually revealed.

Thematically, Edgerton treads in the footsteps of “Fatal Attraction,” “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” and deceptive Alfred Hitchcock chillers, aided and abetted by sly, subtly astute performances by Bateman, Hall and Edgerton himself, along with Eduard Grau’s cinematography and Luke Doolan’s editing.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Gift” is an electrifying 8, delivering a timely, turbulent twist.

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