by Romona Robinson
This film is an adaptation of Lois Lowry’s young adult novel which has sold more than ten million copies worldwide since 1993.
The film centers on Jonas (played by Brenton Thwaites), a young man raised in the utopian world of Sameness, an engineered existence where no one has any memories. Not of love, suffering or violence. There’s no individualism or freedom of choice. The citizens take a daily emotion-suppressing injection to achieve this utopia. At the ceremony where the youth are assigned vocations, Jonas is selected to inherit the position of the community’s Receiver of Memories. He enters into training with the current Receiver of Memories, known as the Giver (played by Jeff Bridges), who is the sole keeper of all the community’s memories in case the elders need guidance so the mistakes of the past are not repeated in their new world.
Jonas’ training moves at a more accelerated pace than the Giver planned on and Jonas quickly discovers the dark truths of history as well as those of his community. With this knowledge, Jonas decides to escape from Sameness. He and the Giver feel that the community has lost its way and it’s time for memories and emotion to be returned to all.
There are two screenwriters for The Giver — Robert B. Weide, who wrote the initial draft seventeen years ago, and Michael Mitnick. Michael came on board recently and it’s his vision that made it onto the screen. The Giver is only his second feature film screenplay. His first, The Current War, was a top ten 2011 Black List script.
“My goal was to be an invisible, successful extension of Lois’ voice,” said Michael Mitnick.
“Michael’s vision was to take the spirit of the book and still make a film for all audiences – a summer blockbuster,” said Nikki Silver, one of the film’s producers.
The opening set-up quickly establishes the friendship between Jonas and his childhood friends and the community of Sameness. Their world is shown in black and white. Only Jonas can see splashes of color, showing his difference from the others immediately. The use of more color as Jonas becomes more aware of the truth is effective. In a scene after Jonas begins his training with the Giver, he tries to share the concept of fun (sledding) with his friends. One goes along with Jonas but the other turns away, as it’s against Sameness rules. This is an effective moment showing the initial fractioning of their friendship and how it factors in at the conclusion of the story.
Now for my issues with The Giver, and where the quotes from the screenwriter and producer factor in.
You really don’t get a chance to spend much time in the world of Sameness. It’s very much introduction, exposition and montage flash scenes between Jonas and The Giver, and then it’s off to the races for Jonas’ journey to escape from the community. The first part of movie has more of a literary touch – you can definitely feel the voice of the novel. Then, however, the film takes this adapting-to-the-formula mode that writers sometimes must concede to if they want to draw in that commercial, ala Hunger Games, audience – and it shows. Sometimes commerce and art can mix but it doesn’t feel like it can with this adaptation.
As the story nears its climax, it branches off into a mini action-adventure film with motorbike chases, flying drones and arduous climbs across desert and snow. Overall, I think The Giver may disappoint hardcore fans and leave the newly introduced a bit cold.
The Giver opens August 15th, 2014.
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