The Gift
directed by Sam Raimi
(Paramount, 2000)

A single mom with psychic powers is content to eke a meager living, trading her visions of the future (as well as a great deal of plain common sense and insight into human nature) for modest "contributions" from the townsfolk of her rural Georgia home.

But when local debutante Jessica King (deliciously played by Katie Holmes) disappears, her desperate father (Chelcie Ross) and fiance (Greg Kinnear) plead with Annie (Cate Blanchett) to put her powers to work and find the missing girl.

It seems a bit too neat when Annie fingers Donnie Barksdale, a local redneck lothario (played startingly well by Keanu Reeves) who had threatened the seer after Annie urged his wife, Valerie Barksdale (a timid Hilary Swank), to leave her abusive husband. But when police find Jessica's body in the Barksdale pond, the case seems closed. Barksdale, after admitting to an affair with Jessica and copping to his violent nature, is convicted of murder.

But Annie isn't so sure the real killer is behind bars.

The Gift is eerily absorbing, with much of the story shown through flashbacks as well as Annie's visions. Although I guessed the killer's identity fairly early in the film, I put it down to luck. The film provides several plausible suspects, including Barksdale and his wife, Jessica's fiance and local mechanic Buddy Cole (Giovanni Ribisi), who has emotional issues that include destructive, even murderous flashes of rage.

The Gift could easily have veered into melodrama, or even rampant silliness, but director Sam Raimi's steady hand and an exceptional cast keep this movie flowing steadily. The cinematography is excellent, particularly when meshing Annie's visions into the stark reality of a town rocked by murder and suddenly distrustful of the "witch" in its midst.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 9 August 2003

Buy it from