Sunday, August 17, 2014

Film review: "The Giver" (2014)

Scooter and I caught a 7:00 showing of The Giver last night.  It was great to have him along as he was less familiar with the story, hadn't read the book, and came in with unbiased eyes.  I have read the book, am quite familiar with the story and was looking forward to seeing how director Phillip Noyce would negotiate capturing the adaptation of Lois Lowry's novel.

The story surrounds the young Jonas, played by Brenton Thwaites, and his isolated community that has attempted to liberate itself from all human suffering.  Daily injections to remove certain emotions, no pain, no illness, no color,  assigned occupations at the age of 18.  Jonas has been selected to become the Receiver of memory, as all recollections of history have been wiped out and contained in one man's mind, the Giver (Jeff Bridges).

Once Jonas begins his training however, he quickly realizes that he, his family and entire community are being done a disservice by having so many experiences withheld.  The last straw is when Jonas learns that a baby his parents have been taking care of temporarily is scheduled to be "released" (essentially euthanized) because he is not gaining weight quickly enough.  Jonas decides to take off with the child (Gabriel) and attempt to reach the outer boundaries of his community.

Meryl plays the Chief Elder, one of society's members who's responsible for behavioral restrictions placed on everyone.  After Jonas flees, she ultimately asks one of his friends, Asher (Cameron Monaghan), now a drone pilot, to "lose him."  Jonas eventually escapes with Gabriel to "Elsewhere", which releases all memories back to his community.



I came away from the theater being entertained, feeling drawn in by the suspense of the last act of the film.  Scooter and I both agreed however that there was insufficient background on what events lead to the creation of this communities.  The book itself is rather short and the events of the film seemed to progress a bit too quickly to seem plausible.  I understand the likely economic reasons the filmmakers made this into an almost science fiction-like young adult flick, but I would've been totally fine without the high-tech environment in which the characters existed.

Meryl does a great job at being a creepy authoritarian, and her role is greatly expanded from the book. With Jonas's growing awareness, the themes of individualism and the importance of free will are sharply contrasted with the Chief Elder's drive to maintain "order."  I enjoy the attempt to focus on these ideas, particularly for the tween generation, although like many other reviewers have already mentioned, I feel it may be a less resounding call to attention twenty years after the book's very popular debut.


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