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"The Gift unwraps some enthralling questions about psychic abilities."
Raymond Teague is the author of Reel
Spirit: A Guide to Movies That
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"Reel Spirit" Movie Reviews
The R-rated film The Gift unwraps some enthralling questions about psychic abilities, the lives of people with psychic gifts, and other people's reactions to those powers.
This supernatural suspense story, written by Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson, focuses on a Georgia widow, Annie Wilson (Cate Blanchett), who supports her three children by giving psychic readings. Annie's talents are called upon to help solve a crime involving the baffling disappearance of a young woman.
The first question that confronts the viewer is: are Annie’s "gifts" of psychic abilities real or imaginary?
Many people today, including noted scientists, accept that what we generally term "supernatural powers" may be quite natural if we only were more consistently in tune with our own "inner space." Annie can be seen as a person so attuned.
Then there are others, the proverbial Doubting Thomases in our midst, epitomized in the film by the main policeman on the case (J. K. Simmons) and by a prosecuting attorney, whose world views are bounded entirely by the five senses. These people consider anyone who claims to see events from the past and future, as does Annie, as certifiably crazy. To them, psychic evidence is inadmissible in court or life.
The second question is: if Annie's "gift" is real, where does it come from? Specifically, is it from God or the devil? Just as the film shows us believers and skeptics, it gives us both views of the origin question. Some townspeople think that Annie's powers are from the devil. To them, there is nothing divine in Annie's abilities or the use of her abilities. The wife-beating Donnie (Keanu Reeves) leads this contingent.
Viewers are, however, given a clear indication that Annie's psychic abilities are from a heavenly source when Annie's deceased grandmother (Rosemary Harris) appears to her. The surprised Annie asks her grandmother how she got there. "It ain't far to walk," the grandmother replies. Before she disappears, the grandmother says, "Annie, always use your instincts, honey."
A third questions that arises is: why are people afraid of a "gift" like Annie's?
On a deep psychological level, people often aren't able to accept events or evidence "outside the box" of their thinking. Accepting new ways of thinking, new sense capabilities, and expanded individual abilities, would force a person to consider a broader view of life.
Clearly, having such a "gift" is difficult for Annie and has mixed blessings. Reading cards gives Annie a means of income, and results in beneficial changes for people. But her readings also lead to disharmony and mental and emotional anguish for some clients, and for herself. She shares her insights at possible peril to herself and to her children, and no doubt has worries about where her insights will lead.
Annie's anguish and the conflicting responses to her "gift" are similar to what another memorable character with extrasensory powers encountered in the 1980 movie Resurrection. In that film, Edna McCauley (Ellen Burstyn) develops a healing power after experiencing a near-death experience. Like Annie, Edna is berated for her "gift," but also like Edna, she is given reassurance by her grandmother, who says that Edna's power is a gift from God.
The Gift, as does Resurrection, gives viewers an opportunity to examine their own perspective on reality, and an opportunity to open their minds to an expanded understanding of what is "natural."