I think its fair to say that the young adult genre has about exhausted all of its options at this stage, especially given the incestuous nature of the stories they tell – it’s like the writers are openly plagiarising each other. The Giver tries a few new tricks, but in the end, it’s the same story you’ve watched again and again, and had Jeff Bridges not been in the cast, there would be no true reason to consider giving the film a second thought.
In a future where humans live in an isolated mountain-top haven, one boy (Brenton Thwaites) has been selected to receive all the memories of man-kind so as to guide his civilisation and avoid the mistakes of the past. Their is no violence, dispute, biological families, there isn’t even colour, and now that Jonas has the memories of the past, will he choose to continue the work of his predecessor (Jeff Bridges) or will he attempt to free his fellow man from the bondage of the oppressive system designed to protect humans from themselves?
Angsty teenagers with the idea that they are different or somewhat more significant than everyone else…and those looking for a revisiting of The Hunger Games, Divergent, or any applicable YA adaptation.
The Bottom Line
I’ve heard about The Giver in passing. Most have relayed an opinion that the book is a real page-turner or at the very least, a satisfying Sunday read. I can see from the film that there was a good deal of potential for something special…and it tries but never quite reaches the upper echelon’s of book-to-movie adaptations.
As with most stories of this particular genre, it takes place in a future utopia where society lives anew in isolation within an oppresive but ideal government. Within the system, each individual is assigned a profession via a choosing system and our main character gets a one-of-a-kind job because he is different. The job he receives is to have the knowldge of the world imparted unto him so that he may guide society along the straight and narrow. But, that’s the last thing that happens now that his eyes have been opened to the double standards that exist within this so-called paradise.
If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is, and I’m tired of it – as should everyone. The problem isn’t really in the story itself but more in the heavy handed way that it is delivered. There is a distinct lack of subtlety and the entire plot is force-fed to the audience in a method that feels invasive and intellectually insulting in its naivety. The inhabitants of the story may not be able to think for themselves, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t.
To The Giver’s credit, the aesthetic look and feel of the film is quite stunning. Had they not shoe-horned reasoning into the decision to go for a monochromatic pallet, I could see the film as an overly long episode of The Twilight Zone. In fact, the entire ordeal carries the essence of the cult-classic TV show, minus the writing prowess of Rod Serling, but in concept, it’s right up there.
Unfortunately the praise ends there, and aside from Jeff Bridges, the entire cast is about as robotic as the society that the characters inhabit. One would think that this works in favour of the concept, but there is a difference between a robotic performance and wooden one, and most of the cast veers towards the cheesy pine cabinet of that spectrum. It’s a movie that you’ll want to love but it doesn’t speak its cause with the authority required for the material.
As a side note, The Giver was in part filmed in South Africa and that’s always a good thing to see – if we can’t make our own movies, at least we can make Hollywood’s.
In conclusion, The Giver has an interesting concept and the story is solid, but the typical young adult anti-conformist formula has run its course and you can only recycle the same story so many times before it just becomes stale. I believe that The Giver could have been more, had it a more consistent creative team behind it, but if I had to pick a YA movie to sit through, this would be middle of the road, and thankfully head and shoulders above Divergent.