Director Sam Raimi, like the Coen Brothers, comes from a background in B-grade horror flicks. As maturity set in and the budgets increased, both turned toward generating tension in a more considered way. Isolated communities undergoing lethal trauma remains the basic horror template, and Raimi's The Gift adheres to it.
Southern mother Annie Wilson (Cate Blanchett) has a gift which allows her to glimpse the future and peer into people's hearts. Working as psychic in rural Georgia allows the single mom to support her three sons, but Annie's accuracy brings trouble. Counseling Valeria Barksdale (Hilary Swank) to leave her abusive husband (Keanu Reeves) only results in trouble for both women when the frightening redneck hears her advice. Supernatural elements make room for a murder-whodunit with overtones of Raimi's A Simple Plan.
Accomplished direction and cinematography make this movie a pleasure to watch. Most impressive, however, is the actors' work. Keanu Reeves might be able to reverse his reputation for vacant acting abilities if enough people see The Gift. The backwoods malevolence of his character hasn't been so believable since Deliverance. Hilary Swank and Greg Kinnear enliven secondary characters, just as Cate Blanchett assumes Annie's haunted sensitivity with finesse. The Sixth Sense awakened an interest in the human, nearly sentimental side of supernatural affairs; The Gift continues this exploration. The story does not shock, but gives generously.