The Giver

Posted August 12, 2014 by in


Total Score

3/ 5

Quick Stats

Genre: science fiction, drama
Director: Phillip Noyce
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Actors: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep
Length: 94 minutes
Release Date: 8/15/2014
Studio: As Is Productions, Tonik Productions, Walden Media, The Weinstein Company,
What We Thought

Stunning cinematography, and more substantial that Hunger Games or Divergent, but not nearly as much fun.

by Daniel Hodgson
Full Article
Imagine a world where you could feel sadness, but never despair.  At the same time, you could feel happiness, but never euphoria.
     That’s because the State makes you take pills, every morning, every day.  The State chooses what your job will be, and who your family will be.  Cameras and drones are everywhere.  The State is all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-powerful.  In the future, the State is God.
     That is the world of The Giver, a society that has risen from the ashes of the apocalypse.  A significant  problem with the story, clearly an attack on psychiatry, is that it seeks to replace medicine with faith and miracles, and sees a solution as a problem.
     The Giver is based on the 1993 bestselling novel of the same name by Louis Lowry, intended as a children’s book but repurposed as 1984-esque YA literature.  The film stars Brenton Thwaites as Jonas, a teenager who’s been chosen by the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) to become the Receiver, who will learn the world’s history, known only to The Giver (Jeff Bridges), who advises the ruling Council based on his wisdom and knowledge of humanity.
     Each day, Jonas goes to the Giver’s home, where the Giver takes Jonas by the hands, which transfers memories passed down from generations of Givers and Receivers.  The Giver explicitly refuses to explain how this happens, frustrating any attempt to understand it.  The film has the carapace of science fiction, but it works more like fantasy; things just happen, as if by magic—or by miracles.
     Jonas’s awakening to the true nature of mankind, its capacity for kindness and cruelty, tenderness and violence, brings with it a new way of looking at the world.  The pills that the State gives its citizens limits their perception to black and white and shades in between, but Jonas, under the Giver’s orders, stops taking his pills, and begins to see the world in colors.
     This is rendered gradually.  The Giver is black-and-white at first, but yields to muted colors, and becomes more alive, more vibrant as it goes along.  The cinematography of The Giver is some of the best I’ve seen all year, and captures the sci-fi world from interesting angles.  The pacing, however, gets away from itself; it opens slowly, gradually builds uncontrollable momentum, and then rushes through the second act, hurtling through emotional moments it should be dwelling on.
     In contrast to other YA adaptations, The Giver is less driven by action or romance, than by imagery and ideas.  It takes itself seriously, and it as serious as a YA adaptation can get.  Being less story-driven means that very little happens in the middle act.  The Giver is more art than pure entertainment.  That is as much a description as it is a criticism.
     It’s more substantial than Divergent or Hunger Games, but isn’t as much fun.  The final act, though, is gripping, intense.  The Giver is exciting when it needs to be, at the climax, but could have used this kind of tension earlier.
     Obviously, it’s wrong to medicate an entire populace in order to control it, and rob everyone of their passions, but the solution is just as broad sweeping and just as wrong—and too easy.  I won’t spoil it, so I’ll leave it at that.

About the Author

Daniel Hodgson

Daniel has a degree in film from the University of Texas at Austin, and writes about himself in the third-person, because that's the fashion.


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