Unlike what seems like the majority of people around my age, I actually made it through school without reading The Giver. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m pretty bummed about this.
For the small percentage like me, here’s a brief explanation of The Giver: as many seem to believe, the future isn’t the best place because people tend to suck. War, murder, sickness… All that jazz. To combat our own nature, a community is built in which the people take daily injections to dull their emotions next to nil. Not only that, but there is only one person in the society with the memory of the history of people. This man is the Giver (not his actual title, but we’ll go with it for obvious reasons).
The Giver is very similar to plenty of other dystopian stories, like Divergent (we’ll go with that example because it was another recent release) meets Pleasantville. Humanity cannot be trusted to work in the best interest of itself, and thus some sort of societal order must be created to keep the peace and manipulate humanity into forgetting its ways of self-destruction. That and it’s black and white, thus Pleasantville.
That’s the obvious explanation for the Pleasantville comparison, but it also captures a similar innocence to the characters that the 1950s perfect world had. Everyone does what he or she’s supposed to, everyone is perfectly polite, everything works. But it’s all a lie. The problem is the Giver is the only one that knows this. At least at the beginning of the film. As a catalyst to get this story rolling, we find ourselves at a ceremony where different life milestones are celebrated, including one in which the teens of the community are given the role that they will carry out in the society until the old age in which they are put out to pasture. Jonas is tasked with becoming the apprentice to the current Giver, and soon he too will know the truth of this society and what came before.
The story is pretty simple: with more knowledge, Jonas realizes that things must change, and he rushes a plan to do just that when he’s forced to do so. Honestly, if you think about it, this plan doesn’t make the most sense and he and The Giver are putting a whole lot of faith in a Hail Mary attempt to change everything. Basically they make a guess based on a huge assumption that seems pretty stupid, and then they go from there. If you can forgive this and accept that plenty of aspects of the film won’t be explained and many questions won’t be answered, then you’ll enjoy the film for its simple journey that is far from other overly complicated stories out there.
It also helps that Brenton Thwaites and Jeff Bridges make a great team. They’re kind of cheating their way into the best performances of the film since they’re really the only ones that feel true emotion, but they still have the responsibility to carry the film long past just standing out from the rest. I know it’s a weird thing to latch onto, but the thing that really sold me at first was Thwaites voice and how it had this natural neutrality to it at first, this specific inflection, slowly evolving with the sense of wonder and the experiences he witnesses during his training. Thwaites and Bridges have a step up on the rest, but Alexander Skarsgard should also get credit because there was something in his performance that made him stand out as well. He had this childish innocence to him that many others didn’t have, like you could see the humanity suppressed in his eyes that was just barely under the surface, whereas many other characters seems a little more soulless in their performances.
There is plenty to wonder about after seeing The Giver, including the creation of The Giver in the first place, as well as what is actually out there past this one community, but you’ll just have to keep on wondering about these things and fill in the world as you see fit. What we’re given is a short, simple story with details that only satisfy the current train of action, but it should not be dismissed because of this. It should be enjoyed, so get at it.
Final Grade: B Follow @BewareOfTrees