Film Review: The Giver

by Sam Robinson

Rated M. Starring Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites. Directed by Phillip Noyce.

A place of no tears or suffering. Here on earth. Is it possible?

According to new teen flick The Giver, it is. Based on Lois Lowry’s 1993 novel of the same name, the film transports us into a society in 2048 where houses, bikes, even bassinets boast a sleek Apple-esque design, and everyone is white. In fact, there’s no such thing as race anymore, nor are there animals or plant life – and no memory of these exist whatsoever. Even the inhabitants of this society are so brainwashed from daily injections that nobody can see colour and the word love isn’t understood by anyone. Any memories of the world as we know it today have been wiped.

That is, except from the mind of The Giver (Bridges), a gruff old man whose job is to educate The Receiver of Memory with knowledge of society past. Upon graduating from childhood (yes, this is a thing), Jonas (Thwaites) is entrusted as the new Receiver, and spends his days in a house full of books with The Giver, being mentored to discover the concealed truth of what life was like before The Man brainwashed everyone. His role allows him to lie, something that the rest of society cannot do. He begins to see colour, discovers what love is, and in the process learns about the horrors of war and suffering.

‘We all need sameness.’

There’s much to enjoy here but it’s outweighed by problems. The origins of the society aren’t explained too well so it just isn’t believable. Surprise plot twists don’t have an impact. The action is drawn-out and towards the end as Jonas quests for justice, his journey becomes far too dull and farfetched. His friends Fiona and Asher are under-utilised, and Meryl Streep is restricted to a robotic, steely performance in front of a green screen.

The Giver is in many ways, a preachy film. It touches on many problems of our world today: climate change, euthanasia, war, and more – and often doesn’t provide many answers. But the effect it had on myself and my wife as we watched was an appreciation of life as we know it.

Our world is full of problems, but there’s still a lot of blessings that we experience day to day, like love, individuality, and freedom. The film displays these via cheap stock images fit for a powerpoint presentation, but it still managed to move me to thankfulness.

And it also made me think that if there’s so many blessings in our life here today, imagine how glorious it will be when suffering and pain is done away with properly. Not in some stagnant, cold society forced to be devoid of emotion, but when those who trust in Jesus will be together with God, bowing before his throne. Revelation 21:4-5:

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

What an incredible day that will be!

The Giver, although a little half-baked, gets us to question life as we know it and be thankful for the simple things. I’m giving it two-and-a-half stars.

The Giver is screening now in cinemas everywhere.

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