“If any of this proves to be too much for you, tell me immediately.” — The Giver
Based on the 1993 American novel by Lois Lowry, The Giver stars Jeff Bridges as The Giver — The Receiver of Memory, a man living in a futuristic society specially refined…and controlled after “The Ruin.” Bridges also co-produced the film.
The society is under extreme control; daily injections remove emotions. There is no suffering, hunger, war, but neither does there exist religion, color, music, nor love. Everything is controlled by the “Elders,” preparing to appoint a new Receiver of Memory.
Australian actor Brenton Thwaites narrates the story, playing the main character Jonas who gets to know “The Giver” while beginning to understand the background behind his home society. Jonas is chosen as the new Receiver of Memory for his many characteristics including intelligence, integrity, courage, and the capacity to see beyond by the society’s elders.
It’s a daunting task to explain and pass on all the secret memories of history. The method is very unique as Jonas absorbs memories from The Giver. Audiences can get hung up on the logistics of how this absorption is physically accomplished, but a special mark on Jonas’ arm might be enough to explain this phenomenon. “Don’t skip ahead,” says The Giver as Jonas absorbs memories then excitedly asks questions, experiencing amazing revelations through his learning then must concentrate on convincing others to take action.
“If you cannot feel, then what’s the point?” says Jonas who takes dramatic actions when he’s back in his home society. His experiences literally take him to the edge of his society.
Filmmakers use historic pictures and videos as the Giver accelerates the training. “We are the only ones who understand it…You have the courage, let me give you the strength,” The Giver says to Jonas.
The film’s main conflict and climax focuses on the realization and escape from the ‘life of echoes’ created by this society. “When people have the freedom to choose, they choose wrong every time,” says the Chief Elder who has a poignant discussion with The Giver who pleas for reason and clarity. The explanation of love is also very memorable. “The mind cannot explain it and you cannot make it go away,” The Giver says to Jonas.
Alexander Skarsgard and Katie Holmes play Jonas’ father’ and ‘mother’ while Emma Tremblay, who had an impressive acting debut in last year’s Elysium, plays Jonas’ young sister Lilly. Her performance is very memorable even with very limited screen time. Tremblay and Thwaites definitely have big careers ahead of them.
An intriguing mix of younger and older characters that strive for sameness and curbs what would set people apart for a seemingly perfect societal harmony. All the actors create an appealing rhythm in their dialogue deliver, which are very eloquent and clear to match their characters’ educational background.
The Giver‘s filmmakers have expanded the novel’s role of the chief elder (Meryl Streep) while a young baby named Gabriel and a character played by popular musician Taylor Swift also have a key roles that are vital to the plot. It’s great to watch Streep and Bridges go mono to mono in a very controlled way during this sequence as she defends the society’s actions and he pleas for a life that was just getting to know the truth.
Thwaites and co-stars Odeya Rush (The Odd Life of Timothy Green) and Cameron Monaghan (TV’s Malcolm in the Middle), who play his friends Fiona and Asher, all display impressive acting talents. Director Phillip Noyce (Salt, A Clear and Present Danger) paints an engaging visual landscape with his cinematographer Ross Emery, making the most of his South Africa and Utah locations.
Music also gets a wonderful showcase in an interior sequence where The Giver shows Jonas more of the building and Bridges showcases his musical talents to evoke the emotional power of music in the plot as a “deep, primal” experience that lingers. Composer Marco Meltrami (I Robot, The Hurt Locker) also enhances the film with his musical score, especially in the scenes where Jonas and The Giver meet for training in a uniquely, isolated underground library known as the Annex with a special window overlooking the edge of the society’s boundary.
I solidly recommend The Giver, thanks to the amazing cinematography, direction, and acting. Hopefully audiences will see three more film sequels from the three other books – Gathering Blue (2000), Messenger (2004) and Son (2012).[amazon template=iframe image&asin=0544336267,B008EEZ64Y,0544340973,0544112008]