The Gift is not a recent short, it was commissioned by TV makers Philips two years ago as part of their Parallel Lines project to director Carl Erik Rinsch, and got its share of buzz back then, and for understandable reasons.

I discovered it yesterday thanks to @catch_the_mouse and via the VFX company Big Lazy Robot vimeo page.

This short movie, despite its commercial purpose, reunites almost all I love in shorts:

- It’s shortThe Gift is under 5 minute long, and when you will watch it, you will be remembered how much you can tell in such a short amount of time. In comparison to the 50 shorts semi-finalists at Your Film Festival, 48 of them being over 5 minutes, it is refreshing.

- It uses the craft of cinema perfectly: beautiful cinematography, beautiful set-design, incredible work on sound, and of course, VFX.

- It is all about show don’t tellthe first dialog starts almost at 2 minute in the story and yet, you don’t feel like it was silent; because of the above point, and because you learn something in every frame.

- It is ambitious: The Gift is not only about visual beauty, it has an ambitious story to tell. It is ambitious because it is set in a futuristic world that mixes (brilliantly) old and new codes (think Tolstoi meets District 9) that need to be set-up quickly, and because nothing is explained, yet, everything is understandable. (see movie)

- It opens up your appetite: The Gift leaves you with a taste of possible in the mouth, and that’s a taste you always want to find again.

So, why the almost perfect ? 

Meet me after watching the short for more on that, as I don’t want to spoil your viewing experience (how nice of me):

Hiatus: the only thing that felt pushy to me, was the robot running away. There are no evidence explaining why, instead of simply hiding the box (if that’s even needed) and ‘letting the police do their job’ he decides to escape. After all, the man was run over by a bus, he wasn’t murdered.

Of course, there might be a million reasons in the backstory explaining why he would do that, but it doesn’t feel like this is something that was thought through. And if it was, it got cut out or wasn’t conveyed at all on screen.

I don’t know what is the box about, I don’t get it, but I don’t need to know it to enjoy the story. The atmosphere is built for me to understand it is important. Important enough to kill a man. But the robot escaping an accident scene doesn’t fit the equation.

By the end of the short I had high hopes this was an excellent short teaser made for a potential feature film (à la District 9 once again), but then I discovered all about Philips and co., and realized this unsolved dots will remain question marks in my head.

So, all in all, The Gift is a great storytelling lesson but could have used a little tweak to reach total perfection. If that’s a goal, that is.

To Be Continued…

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By mentorless| 7 Comments | Acting and Actors, Cinematography and Cinematographers, Directing and Directors, Editing and Editors, Films and TV Show, Personal Buzz, The Art of Framing, Writing and Writers


  1. But remember Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. Clearly, the robot must “get away,” having been ordered to do so by a human. There’s a presumption here that the robot knows what the box is and understands what he must do. The gap I noticed was that, although pursued by motorcycles and ultimately hitting a police car, the robot is able to crawl away with the box a considerable distance, with a long time passing before they shoot him. Where have all the police gone to? Perhaps to attend a mandatory morning lecture on the glories of Fascialism? Is make no sense. But with something deliberately obscure like this, there will always be perceived anomalies. I suspect there is no backstory, just a desire to intrigue. And so it does. Nov shmoz ka pop, Tovarich?

    • You have a good point here. And it’s true too that if the robot had done what seemed logical to me (i.e. going back inside his master’s house with the box) the short would have been even shorter.

  2. I’d like to focus in the meaning of the box (the Gift which is also the title). It’s not only pretty important as they show us, is also magical, a chimera, a mythological being somehow fitted in a small box aparently recovered in this restrictive world. The old man seems to be a rich collector who doesn’t really care about the importance of what he just received (despite the seriousness he shows) and that’s why I think the messenger kill him and run once he makes sure what is in the box. Could be something that could change the world, but worthless in such hands.
    About the robot’s behavior I agree with JG Collins, but, still not sure if this robot know about the contents of the box, aparently he does, or just knows it’s important.
    Well, is just my feeling, I liked the short too. :)

    • Interesting comment, Phoebe. The Gift is a pure McGuffin, an “object, person or goal that gets characters in a movie trying to find it, control it, hide it or destroy it.”
      [] Note that the McGuffin isn’t necessarily ever explained or attained! See particularly the Scottish origins of the expression, wherein it’s said to be “A Scottish Lion,” a mythical beast–like a unicorn!
      I’ll refresh everyone’s memory re Asimov’s Three Laws:
      1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
      2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
      3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
      The robot, here, has been told to “get away.” He sees the policeman coming and runs off, per the Second Law. If he returned to the house, he wouldn’t be “away.”
      You may be right about the robot not knowing what the Box is or signifies; I was reading that into what I saw. He may have reasonably inferred that it was stolen. The elderly man knows what it is, and, despite his demeanor, I’m sure I heard his voice break when he said it was “a unicorn.”
      Once the box has been “unlocked,” it may evidently be used by whoever possesses it. Thus the theft after its delivery.
      The short is absolutely brilliant, a tease that won’t stop. I suspect I’ve read more into it than is there, part of the charm of any McGuffin!

      • Thanks for the explanation JG Collins :)
        Actually I think I heard about de McGuffin term no long time ago but seems like I do not understood the meaning correctly, I do now thanks to that article so to you.
        It is why I like this web site, I am learning a lot and I am so grateful for that.
        I also want to apologize for my english grammar, I am still studying the idiom.

        • This is awesome, thanks for sparkling this conversation Phoebe and J.G.!

        • I didn’t notice the problem with English ’til just now, Phoebe. I’m glad you’re participating here.

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