The Giver is the movie adaptation of a wonderful book by the same name written by Lois Lowery. It takes place in a futuristic world where people live in a well-ordered society they call “The Community”.
The Community has no crime, no hunger, no unemployment and no conflict. The people of The Community have no knowledge of history or of life beyond the boundaries of the Community. It is run by a group of Elders.
In this community lives 16 year old Jonas (played by Brenton Thwaites). Like all the people his age he is eagerly awaiting The Ceremony. Each year there is a ceremony in which the young people of The Community are told what careers they will be assigned to.
When The Ceremony takes place some of Jonas’ friends are assigned to work in the hospital, some to grow food, others to work in sanitation, but Jonas is given the unique task of being The Receiver.
The Receiver is the one individual in The Community who is given knowledge of the past and the outside world. The Receiver keeps all this to himself and his knowledge is only used in case of an emergency when the Elders have a problem they cannot solve and they need the Receiver’s advice.
Jonas is to get all this knowledge from the previous Receiver, who will now be called The Giver. (Who is excellently played by Jeff Bridges.) The Giver is old and sick and must get all this knowledge to Jonas before The Giver dies.
The Giver has the ability to telepathically transmit the actual feel of past events. Jonas soon discovers that there are wonderful feelings he never knew existed; such as riding a sled down a hill on a winter’s day, or swimming in the ocean. But he also finds that there are terrible things in the past, such as war and starvation.
The book The Giver was written in 1994 and sold over 12 million copies. It is in the the category of “YA” (Young Adult) literature. It was taught in schools and was very popular with the classes. Unlike most YA books it does not talk down to the kids. In the book Jonas is 12 rather than 16.
The book and the movie both touch on a theme which is always a sore point for young men and woman in the 12 to 16 year old category. The fact is that adults are hiding from them the knowledge of the real world. Adults lie to them about how things really work and what really happens behind the scenes. Throughout history this has angered young people. However, The Giver shows both sides of this issue. The adults are purposely keeping important information from the “children”, but they are doing so to save them from the great pain which comes with such knowledge.
Before Jonas, there had been a previous Receiver who had been unable to take the pain of the new knowledge. It is unclear exactly what happened to her, but it is hinted that she may have committed suicide. She is shown in flashbacks and is very well played by Taylor Swift, who is of course more famous for her singing than her acting.
Some people may not recognize Taylor at first since in this movie she is a brunette. The Giver has an excellent cast of well known actors including Meryl Streep as the Chief Elder and Katie Holmes as Jonas’ mother
We give this movie 3 stars on our 5 star scale. If we rated books by stars we would give the book 5 stars. Unlike the book, the movie does talk down to the audience in some parts. For example, the first part of the movie was filmed in Black & White. Apparently the people could not see colors since they could not feel emotions. That was not in the book at all, and in the movie it just seem like a cheap rip-off of Pleasantville.
The other more subtle change is the way in which adults are portrayed in the movie versus the book. Jonas has a girlfriend named Fiona (wonderfully played by Odeya Rush) who is assigned to work in the hospital. She soon discovers that weaker babies are killed.
That is one of the many secrets the adults have been hiding from the kids. This is in both the book and the movie. In the movie the adults doing this do not actually realize what they are doing. The daily “medicine” people in The Community take keep them for realizing that the baby is dead and not asleep.
The book is more direct in dealing with its readers. In the book the adults are perfectly aware of the fact that weak babies are being killed, but they accept this as one of the necessary costs of keeping The Community safe and strong.
Still, even with its flaws the movie is well done and worth seeing.