I read Lois Lowry’s book The Giver back when I was in late elementary school. The book founded my love of reading and my interest in dystopian ideas. When I heard they were creating a film, I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to see it. Although it’s been over a decade since I’ve read the book, its content stuck with me enough to give an honest comparison to the film. Books and films can never be exactly alike, so my expectations weren’t for a replica, but a new expression of the story Lowry gave us all those years ago.
The Giver takes place in a futuristic world which has successfully eliminated all conflicts, but with a heavy price. There are no animals, no families, no choices, no color, and no music. The story is of Jonah, a teenage boy who is elected by the Elders, a form of government, to take his role in society as “the keeper.” The keeper is the one who learns history and what life had to offer before society wiped out all the color of life. When Jonah learns of what their society is missing, he sets out on a dangerous mission to bring it all back.
One major thing I appreciated about the film was its capability of staying PG. The book originally focused on preteen characters, but the movie changed them to 16-year-olds. The main reason I see that happening is just for marketing purposes — you can still get 12-year-olds to see a film about 16-year-olds but that’s not the case the other way around.
In the film Jonah does have a love interest. Unlike recent popular films like The Hunger Games or Twilight, this story does not have the “which lover should I choose” conflict which seems to be a trending way to plow through plots. The Giver presents its love story in a sweet, caring way. It mentions that “love” is an outdated word and emotion in their community. So when Jonah begins to experience stronger feelings and shares it with his childhood best friend, Fiona, it is complicated, and extremely delicate, like young love can be.
Another praise is the film’s ability to show me as it showed Jonah how precious life is. A reminder that difference is a good thing. I won’t spoil how its done, but Jonah experiences history in a unique way. The audience is taken on his journeys to see how human cultures vary in different and amazing ways. Both the cinematography and art direction were visually beautiful to showcase these ideas of how wonderful and painful our reality can be.
The Giver features great performances from stars Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Alexander Skarsgård and even Katie Holmes. Taylor Swift even was featured in a few scenes. For our young actors, Brenton Thwaites, who played Jonah, did an acceptable job for only having a dozen previous acting jobs in his filmography. Odeya Rush (Fiona) also turned in an exceptional performance. I wouldn’t be surprised to be seeing her face more frequently.
This is definitely a film suitable to take a younger audience. It is rated PG-13 but as I said before, I read the book as a nine-year-old and had no problem with its content nor dystopian theme.
Photos via: The Weinstein Company