In a world saturated with news coverage of how life as we know it is bound to change for the worse—in some way; there sure are a lot of them—a dystopian film like The Giver fits in perfectly, making us question just what exactly is worth sacrificing.
Based on Lois Lowry’s 1993 young-adult novel, the world of The Giver appears harmonious—but in the same way the USSR seemed wonderful and well organized during its military parades. In the film, weapons don’t exist because humanity is at peace, but the known world, which is really on the scale of a small city, lacks even the culture the Soviet Union was holding onto.
The film revolves around Jonas and the revelations he encounters while undergoing training as his people’s Receiver of Memory. Under the tutelage of the Giver of Memory, or the Giver, he explores humanity’s past, the past that everyone else has forgotten, for what is viewed by the majority as the greater good.
Interspersed with footage of our contemporary moment, from war and famine to raves and sports, The Giver sends Jonas on the same journey we are currently undergoing, a journey that at its end involves dangerous, radical, and necessary decisions both we and Jonas will have to make for our respective futures.
Filmed partially in black and white and partially in color, The Giver’s aesthetics are to an extent gimmicky. A scene in which Jonas realizes that apples are red, for example, feels almost too clichéd. But one gets used to the aesthetic, which changes back and forth depending on perspective, sometimes mixing in gray areas for further depth and difference.
Difference itself maintains a strong thematic presence in The Giver, but it is always portrayed as positive. The Giver is affirming, even if it has some shortcomings here and there. On the whole it attempts to portray a megalithic mythological planetscape of understanding and knowledge, accessing both the physical and the metaphysical in an attempt to conjure up an image of what humanity is capable of becoming, a future almost wholly lost in the world of The Giver.
Jeff Bridges, as usual, acts fantastically. However, the Giver, despite being the film’s titular role, is not the main character. That responsibility falls to Brenton Thwaites; although his acting might not be on the level of someone like Bridges, he at least maintains the ability to persuade the audience that they are in some kind of vaguely familiar yet disturbing world, something which his younger co-stars obviously struggled with perfecting.
While the acting might not be the best, the philosophical implications of the story are actually enough to give the film real substance. If you don’t have the time to read the book to get your daily dose of philosophy, watching The Giver can definitely offer a rewarding substitute.