The Giver

Adding technicolour to a monochromatic world

Love, hope and joy are central themes of the book, but will this film convey the same message?

Walking into the cinema…

The dystopian, young adult fiction genre is getting a bit tired. It is understandable that film makers are trying capitalise on the Twilight and Hunger Games successes. The challenge for these films is finding an original theme. The Giver seems to be putting forward a different storyline and it includes Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep. Does it have hope for some originality?

Cinematic value: 3.5 stars Family value: 3 stars Overall rating: 3.25

You have to ask, ‘Do we need another dystopian, young adult drama?’ After Twilight, The Hunger Games and Divergent, it feels like this genre has hit its maximum capacity. Genre fatigue will be a major hurdle for The Giver, which was written prior to the other book series, but took some time to get released and, surprisingly, does give a new spin to this worn out genre.

Phillip Noyce (Salt) manages to lay out a monochrome setting for the setting of the film in the utopian Community. A society that has eliminated war, pain and suffering, but there is something missing in this seemingly perfect society. Noyce seems to be preparing the film’s artistic canvas before adding the desired colours. As with most artists, he begins by drawing a monochrome picture before starting work on his cinematic work. After the establishment of black and white portrayal of the community, we are introduced to a special ceremony for young graduates and their roles in the society. The central character, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), is given the unique role of Receiver of Memories, a position that has not been given to anyone in 10 years. He enters into training with a mysterious elder called The Giver (Jeff Bridges). The development of their relationship is the basis for the slow incorporation of colour into the palette of the society and on the screen. With the introduction of the realities of the truths of the “real” world, Jonas finds that things are not as they seem within this utopian community. The richness of life brings forth the technicolour that he had realised was missing from The Community and his life. The beauty of the story is like watching a painting slowly come into reality. Jonas has to make decisions about what to do with these new truths. The story does not have children killing or fighting other children and does not incorporate too many action sequences. It is more philosophical and provokes the bigger questions of life. Jeff Bridges as the brooding mentor, helps to convey the weight of responsibility of one who holds the truths of the society, but has to have restraint in sharing with the broader society. Once he is allowed to share with Jonas, he has difficulty with the pace of release of information and pushes Jonas into making decisions that will effect all of the controlled society. The experience is like watching a colour by number painting being painted by Jackson Pollack.

Philip Noyce manages to take a worn out genre and broaden the perspective of the viewer. The black and white filming is intentionally unnerving until the colour of the story and Jonas’ life come into focus. The colours play beautifully against the backdrop of the greys of a society left without love and hope. One of the refreshing components of the storyline is how it pushes against the boundaries of political correctness and some of the key failures of humanity. Noyce manages to paint a picture of the realities of society and the awareness of what adds to the beauty to life. Admittedly, the film has an Oblivion and Enders Game feel without the action sequences and will inevitably suffer from comparison to many of the dystopian films that have come before and because of the lack of action it will not appeal to some of the audience of the The Hunger Games. Yet, due to the thought provoking message of life makes attending this film worthwhile for adults and teens.

This recommendation comes with a warning. There are scenes of infanticide and references to euthanasia that are unnerving for the characters of the film and for the audience. Noyce does not take the topic lightly and does help to promote the sanctity of life. These crimes on humanity, the philosophical nature of the film, and the lethargic pacing will cause unfair comparisons to other series within this genre of film. It is thought provoking and refreshing, but does cover some disturbing content. The Giver is not a masterpiece, but it does have an aesthetic appeal and philosophical value.

Leaving the cinema…

The last expectation of this film was to have deep theological and philosophical discussions with my young adult children, but that is what ensued. In amongst the young adult drama was the discussion of life, love, hope and joy. This film will have to get over the hurdle of genre fatigue, but commendations have to go to the screenwriters for their bravery and originality and I would recommend The Giver.

What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?

  1. What does God and the Bible have to say about the value of life? (Genesis 1:27, Isaiah 46:3–4
  2. Do we have a role in our society? (John 13:35, 1 Peter 2:17)
  3. Where can we find real love, hope and joy in this broken world? (Acts 24:14–16, Romans 8:24)

Written by Russell Matthews based on a five star rating system @ Russelling Reviews #russellingreviews

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