Overview: A young boy is selected for the responsibility of receiving of the memories and emotions of the past, leading him to question his society’s good intentions. 2014; The Weinstein Company; rated PG-13; 94 minutes.
The Age Old Question: The Giver isn’t just another installment in the slew of YA dystopian novels teens and adults alike have been devouring over the last several years. The novel by Lois Lowry is revered by some as a classic, and it was one of the first of its kind–a dystopian novel written not just for teens, but for children. I was assigned to read the book in middle school, and it’s remained with me ever since (both figuratively and literally; it’s still sitting on my bookshelf) by influencing my love of reading and sparking my imagination. When the book was released in 1993 it was innovative in every sense of the word, but to someone who is unfamiliar with this beloved story, The Giver has the potential to feel like a knock off of this year’s Divergent, with less romance and much less action. However, this book is now more than 20 years old. If the movie had been made even 5 years ago, we’d be using it as the benchmark of comparison instead of The Hunger Games.
The Giver and the Receiver: The best moments in this movie happen when The Giver (Jeff Bridges) and Jonas, The Receiver of Memories (Brenton Thwaites) are on screen together. Bridges brings a gruff, weathered element to the character of The Giver, which is fitting for a man who’s been exhausted by the weight of carrying an entire society’s memories. His distaste for the Elders combined with his vulnerability creates an endearing father figure for Jonas, who develops an earnest intensity as the story progresses. Brenton Thwaites showed us earlier this year that he could act in the breakout horror flick Oculus, and with his leading role in The Giver, he proves that he can hold his own alongside legends like Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep. I predict we’ll be seeing much more of Thwaites in the next couple years.
The Audience: Unlike these other aforementioned powerhouse YA franchises, The Giver might end up missing out on its target audience. Even though the characters were aged a few years in the movie translation, Phillip Noyce did an exceptional job preserving the kid-friendly nature of the material, yet it was slapped with a PG-13 rating. It’s not dangerous or romantic enough for teens and might have too many plot holes to earn the respect of adults, so where does that leave those who are meant to watch? I can only hope those who purchase a ticket can appreciate The Giver for what it is, a solid adaptation to a beloved children’s book.