Page to Screen Vol. 1.2: The Giver
So I went so see the film adaptation of The Giver last night. While it was not what I expected, I was not disappointed.
The movie begins with Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), our protagonist, narrating the rules and giving a little back-story about the community. This sets up the culture that has been established within the Community nicely. Instead of beginning a couple days or so before the Ceremony of Twelve, it starts almost right before what the movie called their graduation ceremony. It's a small change from the book and is necessary for those who did not read the book.
Everything around Jonas is black and white and fifty shades of gray (zing!). He sees a flash of red in Fiona's hair. Jonas, Fiona (Odeya Rush) and their friend Asher (Cameron Monaghan) are a small group of friends eagerly awaiting their Assignments (jobs) to be announced at the graduation.
Meryl Streep, as the Chief Elder officiates the graduation ceremony and skips Jonas, which leaves him confused and anxious on stage. She then reveals that it had been nearly a decade since a Receiver of Memory was chosen and the elders had taken great care in selecting him as the next one.
Jonas arrives at the Giver's (Jeff Bridges) house, which is perched at the edge of the community atop a cliff. It was beautifully animated and I would want to live there some day. The Giver begins telling Jonas that it was his responsibility to pass down memories from "back and back and back" to know the history and advise the future. He begins giving Jonas pleasant memories.
Jonas's family has an interesting dynamic. Katie Holmes plays his mother and she's the Director of Justice. She's very insistent on "precision of language." His father (Alexander Skarsgård)is a Nurturer and brings a baby whose status is uncertain, Gabriel, home. Lily is his little sister.
There is frequent foreshadowing about the previous Receiver chosen and the relationship that the Receiver had with the Giver. I won't spoil this, because I didn't in my last post and personally, it is really sobering when you find out who the other Receiver was.
The Chief Elder grows terrifyingly worried and obsessed with Jonas's trainings and stops by to make sure things are going well. For the first time, Jonas lies.
Throughout the memory giving process, some of the flashbacks were super shaky and kind of jump-cut-y (not a word, I know, bear with me). I thought the technique was a little overused, and that may just be because it was making me nauseous; no one else seemed bothered by it. My favorite scene of memory being passed to Jonas, was that of war. The Giver was on the floor and screaming, "They're in the trees!" Jonas, worried goes over to him, takes his hand and is pulled into a terrifying scene of war where he experiences violence among people and death of a friend.
The holographic recording of the previous Receiver and the Giver, got me a little teary-eyed, mostly because I'd read the book and knew why the moment was so tender. I loved that moment. Jonas watches the recording and wonders what happened. The Giver tells him that he gave the Receiver a memory connected so strongly with the emotion of loss that the previous Receiver asked for Release. Jonas naively believes that, Release meant that she was living Elsewhere, but the Giver showed him a Release that was performed earlier in the morning by his father. I couldn't believe they showed this scene! It was...wow. I am very proud of the film for sticking to the book in that particular scene; it was essential.
The film progresses as Jonas grows more emotionally aware and he tries to share that with everyone, especially Fiona but is most successful with Gabriel as he would pass on good memories to keep him settled.
Towards the end when Jonas is escaping the community, we see real changes in Asher and Fiona. The Giver and the Chief Elder have an amazing debate about whether to have emotions and memories or to be exempt from them. The Giver was so passionate and full of hope, while the Chief Elder could think of nothing but fear. What happened at the end was visually and emotionally beautiful.
This film was very enjoyable and still brings up the main themes from the book. The discussions this film will inspire will be deep and foster critical thinking skills in young and old alike. Jeff Bridges, your father would be proud. I thoroughly enjoyed this film. Four out of five, easy.
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