Director: Phillip Noyce
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites, Alexander Skarsgård, Katie Holmes, Odeya Rush, Taylor Swift
Release Date: August 15th, 2014
The Community is a world of control. It is a place where the weather doesn’t change because of climate control. It is a land where pain doesn’t arrive because of medical control. It is an area where heartbreak doesn’t exist because of emotional control.
It is also the setting of the new drama The Giver, adiposity a film that honors and retells the beautiful story that was brought to such powerful life by novelist Lois Lowry.
Over the past few years, dictatorial worlds have been undermined by young people in movies like The Hunger Games and Divergent. Published years before those books were released, The Giver tells a similar but simpler story of youthful revolt in a place where some of the older people have created a nauseating structure of control.
One of the joyous ideas of The Giver is that the protagonist doesn’t need to battle his way to victory through violence and warfare. Here, the young leader simply has to find a way to reveal the world’s secrets to those who have spent years living in the dark.
Jeff Bridges, who appears as the title character, isn’t the hero. He’s the adviser– a man who helps guide the hero and begins to show him that the world is more complex than he believes. Brenton Thwaites, who is having a career high in 2014, stars here as the heroic Jonas. Jonas is an ordinary teenager (who has been aged up from the books) who is asked to become the Community’s Receiver of Memory. Unlike his peers Asher (Cameron Monaghan) and Fiona (Odeya Rush), he is given a special privileged position— one that no other person holds (Bridges, who was the Receiver, becomes the Giver when Jonas— his replacement— is chosen).
Jonas’ world is a place where words are precise, emotions are denied and memories of pain and wonder have been withheld. Jonas, in receiving memories, gets to see beyond those limitations and gets to experience the hatred of war and the joy of love.
Directed by Phillip Noyce, the film sounds simple but is profound in its own messages about the benefits of hiding unstable aspects of our life to protect a people’s happiness. Even Meryl Streep, who appears as the villainous Head Elder, is presented as a woman who believes that her actions and her choices are for the betterment of the community and arguably she has her reasons for believing so– reasons that Jonas comes to understand when he experiences pain and loss for the first time. Like Pleasantville (1998), the film finds beauty in everyday moments and vivid colors that seem ordinary by our standards but extraordinary to those who have not experienced such wonder.
The film does a strong job bringing the main themes of the book to the big screen while removing a few details that could’ve deepened the story’s impact. At a crisp 94 minutes, a few added details would’ve likely enriched the characters and Jonas’ journey from becoming the new Receiver to deciding what he wants to do with his newfound knowledge but scriptwriters Michael Mitnick and Robert B. Weide are often very loyal to the story and ultimately capture the essence of The Giver.
The movie, like the book, relies on more than special effects and action sequences to show how a young person can change the world simply by taking a stand and letting his fellow citizens know that life can be more.
Review by: John Hanlon