Before Hunger Games and the Divergent novels, there was a book published in 1993 called “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. During the twenty years, it has received a lot of complaints and criticism, to the point where people have tried to have it removed from school reading lists and libraries. Perhaps that’s the reason it took so long for Hollywood to make a film adaptation.
“The Giver” takes place in a “post-apocalyptic” utopian future where memories are wiped, emotions are neutralized through daily injections, colours are blocked, prejudice and cruelty are foreign concepts, social equilibrium is maintained via 24/7 surveillance and population control programs. Community members are assigned jobs and children that the “elders” – led by the chief elder (Meryl Streep) – deem fit for their personality. The story mainly focuses around Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) who is assigned to be “The Receiver” of memories of pre “sameness” passed onto him by “The Giver” (Jeff Bridges). Jonas quickly begins to discover the truths of the world and the secret past of his community. With this newfound power of knowledge, he takes matters into his own hands to expose the truth and save the lives of those he loves.
Majority of “The Giver” is in black and white. Director Phillip Noyce, uses colours in the story to his advantage by using it to convey emotions of the characters. It is a clever way of depicting the reality of these people that have been robbed of all emotions and choices.
Colour starts sweeping in as the memories of pre “sameness” are passed through to Jonas from the giver. Those scenes are vibrant – bursting with colours and emotions. The audience gets to experience the exhilaration of jumping off a cliff, the joys that music and love can bring, to devastating moments of war and death. All images are beautifully edited in with the story designed to move anyone watching.
As much as there are beautiful moments, there are equally as many disturbing elements in this film. It’s dreadful watching people that have been de-humanise, brainwashed and controlled by a group of “elders”. Especially when it comes to light that a group of workers are unknowingly taking the lives of babies and old people.
This film packs a punch when it comes to acting power. Streep and Holmes are terrific at playing their emotionless and cold characters. Thwaites, who probably has one of most difficult roles in “The Giver”, does a great job as Jonas. A lot of the emotions within the film fell upon him to depict. Alexander Skarsgards is a delight. He takes a departure here from his normal roles, playing the clueless, soft and gentle father of Jonas. The most memorable performance comes from Bridges. His attempt to free the people of “sameness” and his performance as a deeply lonely man is poignant. Taylor Swift has a small but important role.
This film is more intelligent than any of the other films in the same genre, and it would have been more enjoyable had the last 20 minutes didn’t give off a feeling of being rushed. Three quarters of the films builds up the story, it’s engaging, it gets you thinking and reflecting for quite some time. However, it loses it towards the end. Some scenes (especially those involving a baby) are poorly done and over the top, so much so that it quickly jolts the viewer into reality by its sheer silliness.
The ending may also feel incomplete, and while the film is not exactly the same as the book, it certainly sticks to giving the audience an ambiguous finale. Allowing space for everyone to make their own judgement as to what actually happened. This undoubtedly will frustrate a number of people.
It is definitely not a film for everyone! I give it 6 stars.
“The Giver” is in cinemas now.