The Giver

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The Giver

It’s the future, and after a great war humanity has decided the only way to survive is by eliminating all the things that divide us. Passions and love are drugged out of the population; emotions of any kind are banned; lying is forbidden. Even the memory of such things is locked away, with only the mysterious “Giver” (Jeff Bridges) still allowed to recall a more extreme time. When Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) comes of age, he watches as his friends are assigned traditional jobs, then the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) drops a bombshell: Jonas has been chosen to be the next Giver, with all the privileges (and burdens) that it entails. But the more he learns about the lost world of emotion, the more he wonders whether it’s right that these things are denied to the rest of the public – and the more of a threat to the regime he becomes.
It’s a great idea for a story, and the original YA novel (written in the early ’90s) that this is based on is a classic of the genre. But once this film (directed by Phillip Noyce, who at least makes the wilderness scenes look sharp) moves past the initial step-up it flounders quickly. There are a few feeble attempts to spice up a story that by its very nature is largely built around how teenagers feel: the regime is stocked with cartoon baddies and the smooth running of the society seems to involve killing babies, which no one sees as wrong because they (the adults, not the babies) lack emotions. But these additions to the story seem to miss the point: this is a great way to explore the wave of emotions that overwhelm pretty much all teens, and by turning this into a generic YA dystopia, The Giver ends up having a whole lot less to give.
By Anthony Morris