Movie Review: “The Giver” – Slow But Interesting

Written by Caitlin Cooper September 22, 2014

The Giver

You probably read “The Giver” by Lois Lowry for school. I read it in elementary school and was fascinated by the futuristic world depicted on its pages. It’s probably the first sci-fi book I’ve ever read, and I enjoyed its unique plot and interesting ideas and messages. When I first saw the trailer, my interest was piqued because I’d enjoyed it years ago; I couldn’t remember specifics about the story, just that I liked it. Can such an odd, thought-provoking novel work as a film?

“The Giver” is set in a future in which everyone is the same, and people take morning injections which robs them of the ability to feel emotions. On graduation day, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) will be assigned the job he will have for the rest of his life; he has been selected, however, to be the next Receiver. The Receiver is the only member of the community to have memories of the past, of the way things used to be. As Jonas meets the Giver (Jeff Bridges) and learns more and more about what has been taken from them for the sake of “peace”, he begins to question the Elders and rebel against cruelties disguised as niceties.

“If you can’t feel, what’s the point?”

Before “Divergent” (the book), there was “The Giver”. The question posed is what would life be like, what would we be like, if we erased everything that makes us unique for the sake of avoiding the worst aspects of the world. In doing so, Jonas learns that people have also erased the best parts of life, and the world. It’s an intriguing concept, but I’m not sure it works independently from the novel. The pacing is slow for about the first half of the film because at its heart this isn’t an action film. “The Giver” is a sci-fi drama which poses questions and gives answers rather than provides action sequences to thrill audiences. The film held my interest anyway because I knew it wasn’t going to be especially action-y like the trailers imply. When Jonas starts taking action is actually when the film picks up. The climax sees the film reach a good resolution, but there are questions left unanswered. Why was the community created in the first place if there are still people living outside of it as we live now? How is the house Jonas saw in a memory the exact same as the one he finds in the woods once he’s escaped? If the script is confused, you can bet the audience is too. That being said, there are some pretty poignant lines that remind me why I like the story.

The Giver

Since the daily injections also prohibit people from seeing colours, “The Giver” is mostly in black-and-white, except for from Jonas’ perspective. He sometimes sees hints of colour, and when he begins receiving memories and not taking his injection more colour begins to be added to the film. The art of this is wonderful. I think having the film be mainly in black-and-white for at least the first half of the film may isolate younger audiences, but I can appreciate it. We only see colour when Jonas does, and that reflects his character arc. This is easily the most poignant and beautiful part of the film.

“If only you could see the possibility of love.”

I wish I could say the acting is top-notch, but it suffers in some parts. The actors tend to deliver their lines in a monotone voice. I understand this is to reflect the fact that they take a drug to keep them from emotion, but at times it makes lines which are supposed to be moving fall flat. Jonas is supposed to be feeling emotions once he starts avoiding his daily injections, but his narration and a good portion of his scenes still feel a little lifeless. The Giver tells Jonas he loves him, but I don’t really believe it (though this could be more a script problem than anything). I do believe the love between Jonas and Fiona partly because of the good writing. The best acting came from Odeya Rush, who plays Fiona; Alexander Skarsgård, who plays Father; and Emma Tremblay, who plays Lilly.

The Giver

Overall, “The Giver” has really interesting source material, and the film captures much of that. That being said, the film feels a little bland, as if it’s been given one of those daily injections to prevent emotion. The artistic playing with colours to highlight character growth and plot movement is one of the strongest aspects of the film. I’m not sure, however, that “The Giver” will be everyone’s cup of tea.

My Rating: 7.5/10

The Giver

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About Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin is an avid watcher of movies and television shows so she decided to use her passion to write about them. She has a B.A. in English Language and Literature with a Minor in Creative Writing.

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