THE GIVER joins the Young Adult Franchise battle against DIVERGENT and HUNGER GAMES. The concept is familiar, but for me this one is a real STAND OUT of the sub-genre. The premise here is another future society divided by selected occupations. Everything seems fine, but this society is built on a massive lie. The world is not what you think it is… and it’s not THE MATRIX either.
Jonas (BRENTON THWAITES) is the main character who has been passed over for roles like Nurturer and Drone Pilot.
One by one, his friends get selected. They are praised (creepily) with the words, “Thank you for your childhood.” Jonas finally learns his role in society: he is to be the keeper of memories – a historian of sorts.
He’s taught by the wise GIVER (Jeff BRIDGES). What follows is a more philosophical exploration of a divided post apocalyptic society. This film may be light on action, but it’s heavy on ideas. Dangerous ideas. To quote V FOR VENDETTA, “Ideas are bulletproof.”
MERY STREEP appears as a sort of authority figure or leader. She is the protector of this manufactured society. She fully believes in assigned occupations. There’s a quote that gets to the heart of her twisted point of view, when she says, “People are weak. When they are free to choose, they choose wrong.” She’s determined to stick to this narrow view.
As a contrast, The Giver wants to share emotions and wisdom with his pupil, whereas Streep’s character wants to halt any progression or evolution. She thinks emotions are dangerous, “Love leads to passion. Passion leads to murder.” She wants to preserve her perverted utopia, while being blind to all its faults.
Streep and Bridges involvement in THE GIVER should give those that are hesitant some assurance. These are giant Oscar nominated actors. They aren’t doing this one for a paycheck. It’s the ideas. Bridges has been trying to make this for over 20 years. Because of the ideas, this film could be part of school’s curriculum. It is that deep. It is that important.
For some younger viewers, I really believe THE GIVER can change their world. Or at least direct them down a different path. We have free will. We can make our own choices independent of society’s ideologies. Revolution happens when new ideas are spread. Ideas, not bullets.
PHILLIP NOYCE directs this pseudo-dystopia with strong visuals and balanced subtext. The decision to film in BLACK AND WHITE was brilliant. At first, I was like what in the PLEASANTVILLE is going on? It turns out this is a very effective way for us to experience this drastic world change and its effects on Jonas.
It’s not like this movie is some big philosophy or history lesson. It’s not as boring as that sounds. While the concept is intellectually stimulating, there are a few action segments sprinkled about to keep things exciting. By the end, we’ve been through some intense chases. There IS adventure. Patience pays off with THE GIVER.
BRENTON THWAITES was unfamiliar to me, so he was the character. I had no basis of comparison. He was pretty impressive too. He has to go through a range of experiences and act like he’s feeling emotions for the first time. I think he pulled this off rather well. He is charismatic, but doesn’t rely on charm. He’s more introspective. I look forward to the sequel (should it be produced) , as Jonas eventually evolved into more of an action hero by the end of this adventure.
The heavier philosophical issues explored in THE GIVER revolve around the concept of love, and the concept of love. The debate is whether one is worth the other. It’s makes you think is live worth living if you’re never loved – be it unconditional or romantic ?
There are some creepy moments in this movie too. Like the idea of “RELEASE” and its process. What would life be like if we never knew about death? Would we be happier? If you like the ideas contained within THE GIVER I encourage you to pick up a book. Research some philosophy.
Another fictional book that blends ideas with excitement is ANTHEM by Ayn Rand. This author gets a bad wrap in some circles but her work is influential enough that movies like DIVERGENT and THE GIVER borrow very heavily from its concept of youths assigned careers or their own predetermined slot in society without any say in it. Without any free will. Without a choice. Sound familiar?
There is a whole world out there of ideas on what makes us human and what is life – from Socrates & Plato to Descartes & Locke. There are so many ideas hidden within ancient texts and modern books. The best thing THE GIVER does is encourage us to learn more. Like Jonas, there’s a whole world out there hidden under our noses. Books are unrated. They have dangerous information. They can illuminate the inner world for any one – rich or poor. Knowledge is free, in our society. We have an entire library in our pocket. The Internet. Don’t take that for granted. See in full colour.
THE GIVER also examines the importance of WORDS. I love the little moments about the stuffed elephant. There is a great story out there that discusses similar themes to this film. If the world was described to us in a different way, would we experience life in a different way. It’s all a matter of perspective. The short story is called SHE UNNAMES THEM. Find it. Don’t let that important piece of art SLIP THROUGH your hands. The movie talks of JOY and PAIN in regards to animals. It’s interesting to note that humans are the only animals to get joy from inflicting pain.
Jonas told his little sister about the elephant. He broke the rules to share this knowledge. By the end, she is warned to never say his name again. She refuses. She says she will. This was a nice little moment. It shows us how Jonas planted a seed, that may come to fruition later on in her life. Let’s hope he inspires a revolution.
I won’t ruin what happens by the end. All I can say is it was rather satisfying. It builds a much larger story which I eagerily anticipate. I hope Hollywood makes a sequel to this. Jeff BRIDGES produced this passion project. It’d be nice to see him follow through with this dream.
NERD ALERT 2000: The BLURAY has a special feature of a SCRIPT TABLE READ from 20 years ago, with his father (LLOYD BRIDGES) playing THE GIVER. I imagine fans of the book will get a real kick out of this bonus feature. It’s worth it. You might recognize a few other faces too.
Not since THE MATRIX, have we had a more philosophical adventure. The ideas within THE GIVER are just as impressive as the groundbreaking sci-fi KEANU REEVES film.
For those of you who are getting a little fed up with all these YOUNG ADULT franchises, worry not. This one is better than most of them. It might not have the action heavy concept of HUNGER GAMES, but for me THE GIVER was just as enjoyable and much more intellectually satisfying.
What did you think? Was there too much drama here?
Did they adapt the book well? Are you dying for a sequel?
Are you inspired for a revolution? Will you read some Philosophy?