I like psychological thrillers and I think this is a good one. The story revolves around three main characters. Firstly we see Simon (Jason Bateman) and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) who move to California from Chicago because of Simon’s new job (I wonder if the screenplay writer had just seen Pixar’s Inside Out which starts the same way!). This happens to be Simon’s home town and shortly after moving in he is recognized by an old school friend, the third protagonist, ‘Gordo’ played by Joel Edgerton, who also directed the film and wrote that screenplay! Gordo insists on swapping phone numbers even though Simon is clearly hesitant.
Then, a few days later, Gordo turns up uninvited at their house a few days when only Robyn is at home. She feels obliged to invite him in for dinner. For the first part of the film the suspense is slowly set up and we feel that this is developing into a reasonable, but somewhat predictable, psychological thriller with a few shocking moments – for example, we could see that it was foolish for Robyn to ask Gordo into the house and to stay for dinner.
However, the character development start to cast doubt on where we think the plot is going. We discover that each character is a mixture of good and bad. They are capable of being magnanimous and warm, but also each has aspects of their past that show them to be less than perfect and capable of behaving badly. This has a double effect. Firstly the film becomes more interesting as we find out more about the people who had seemed somewhat one-dimensional up to this point; and secondly, its starts to introduce doubt into our minds about where the plot is going. We’re not sure that we can rely on patterns of behaviour from our characters. This is well handled by the film for each introduced character trait or new piece of evidence from the past adds depth to what are more believable characters. All the time I found myself trying to judge, is this person predominantly good or bad? How do I cast each in this plot, hero or villain?
Finally key information about the past relationship between Simon and Gordo is revealed that completely changes our perception of what has been going on. We realize that we really have misjudged the people and in (Read More)