Specs from IMDB.com:
In a seemingly perfect community, without war, pain, suffering, differences or choice, a young boy is chosen to learn from an elderly man about the true pain and pleasure of the “real” world.
Director: Phillip Noyce
Writers: Michael Mitnick (screenplay), Robert B. Weide (screenplay), 1 more credit »
Taglines: You can make things better.
Search for truth. Find freedom.
Genres: Drama | Sci-Fi
Motion Picture Rating (MPAA): Rated PG-13 for a mature thematic image and some sci-fi action/violence
Official Sites: Official site | Official Twitter
Release Date: 15 August 2014 (USA) See more »
Runtime: 1 hr 37 min (97 min) (USA)
My Rating: 8 out of 10
After the world experienced some great turmoil, The Community was formed to establish harmony and rules which would eliminate hate, greed, and difference. This (seemingly) utopian society has chosen Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) as the new Receiver of Memory (the history of the world, hidden from the rest of the community) where he learns the meaning of what it is to be human and to be free. He is guided by the Giver (Jeff Bridges) and shown a world of possibilities of love and faith that he never new existed and begins to see the dark secrets of the Community that lie just beneath the surface.
I read this book (by Lois Lowry) about two weeks prior to viewing this movie and I described to my wife as, “One of the most hauntingly beautiful books I have ever read,” and the movie does not disappoint. Yes, they tweaked the story somewhat so that it would translate better onto screen but overall, this movie was done in great tribute to this book. It is very difficult to describe this movie without giving some big spoilers (and I’d hate my job to be the Giver of Spoilers), so I will attempt to write the good and bad without any spoilers and then the themes will have a spoiler warning.
The Good: This movie shows pain and passion in a wonderful way and how these emotions and our choices, even the wrong ones, make us human. Great acting from all the actors involved. Meryl Streep has a perfect mix of seemingly concerned with obvious overtones of ominous dictator as the Chief Elder, the main antagonist of the film. Jeff Bridges always does a superb job and I loved him as the old Giver, a man set apart, holding the secret history of the world and all its pain, joy, hate, love, within his mind, a wonderful and terrible station. Watch out for that Brenton Thwaites, he’s good and I think he’ll be going places. Loved the interaction between the Giver and Jonas, the old sage and his pupil, dreaming of a better world where people may be free, but to learn from the past and do t better than before. The Community’s subtle sinister quality is hinted at from the beginning of he movie and they do not disappoint as a big brother type government who enforce rules of politeness, distance, and no choice in where you go or what you eat, while at the same time, seeming to take care of the people within the Community. They added a little romance into it, between Jonas and Fiona (Odeya Rush), which I enjoyed (I’m sure some didn’t care for it but I thought it added some flare).
The best part of this movie is near the end. A beautiful scene which I won’t spoil here. Go see it!
The Bad: They tweak a few things from the book that I didn’t think needed tweaking, like when Jonas first sees color, the Giver claims his first color was yellow, but in the book, the Giver had first heard music, I simply thought it gave a good contrast between the characters and individuality, that while they are connected, they are different. The Giver has the dream and Jonas is the means. Not a big deal, but I thought it was worth mentioning. The Giver gave Jonas very small experiences of pain (until an accident) but in the book, he gave him plenty of real pain (breaking a bone, falling), but I suppose they wanted a bigger impact. OK, i get that maybe. Hey movies are never going to encompass everything from the book. Last complaint (hopefully), wanted it to be longer the encompass more of the book (Ok, Dil, come off it now, I know, I know, sorry. Problems of book lovers haha).
Themes (Spoiler Warning!!):
Freedom vs. Security– The world is messy and as the Chief Elder says, “When people have the freedom to choose, they choose wrong.” But then who are we? If we can’t make our own choices, are we free? Do we trade our freedom to choose to make sure the majority is safe? When I say the majority, I mean that population control must be taken so there is no threat to security of the group, this includes “Releasing” members that would add any instability to the Community. It’s a terrifying thought to think that people would agree to have their freedom to choose, to defend, to speak, to stand for what is right, to love, be taken away simply to be safe. Give up all that is good so that you never have to experience what is bad. You pity these people and it makes you glad to live someplace where freedom is held in such high regard.
Love is Worth the Pain– With freedom, people can choose what is wrong, but on the other hand, without choice, you can never love with all you have. The family units in the community are made up of a father, mother, one son and one daughter. That is it. None of these individuals are related to each other, but each newchild (the Community refuses to call them babies, taking away the reverence of what new life means) is assigned to a family (after going through the proper procedures and papers with the Community deciding whether these people are suited to raised a child). There is no love as we see when Jonas learns what love is, he asks his father if he loves him, to which his parents respond by saying love is an outdated word. They enjoy him, and take pride in his accomplishments, but love is far too strong a word to use in the Community any longer. This is one of the factors which convinces Jonas of the horror of the Community, they have no love, no connections that make anyone more or less important than another.
“I loved her.” “Precision of language.” “Oh, I could not be more precise!”
Value of Life– Who has the right to say where life begins? Where it ends? To control population and to make sure there is no strain on the Community, any life, young, old, or in-between, that brings disorder or strain on the Community is euthanized (released from the Community). If a baby will be a burden to the Community (because s/he has any defect, or some difficulty in development) the baby is put to death. The old, after a certain age are released and never seen again. This world claims to have subdued pain and suffering, but they’ve merely exchanged one evil for another to keep the people comfortable. Because the Community has taken away the emotions and memory of the World’s history, no one even understands the value of life, killed the old or young mean nothing to these people who have no concept of how precious and wonderful life is.
“He killed him. Like in my Memories. How could he do that.” “He doesn’t understand what he’s doing.”
Other Thoughts: I thought this was an amazing movie which stressed how beautiful the world is and that while there is pain, there is joy, while there is hate, there is love, and if we remember our past mistakes, we can create a better world. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” [Matthew 16:26]. We should protect life, of babies (born and unborn), take care of the old, and remember what it means to be human, a wonderful and terrible privilege.
Extra: Check out this short music video for “Ordinary Human” by OneRepublic made for The Giver with some clips from the movie-