The now classic work that serves as the base of the newest YA adaptation The Giver has a central message that has been alluded to many times over, but nonetheless remains timeless: Emotion is what makes us human, and here, it’s what makes life real. Put in the simplest of terms, the film tells the story of a boy who wants to learn how to feel, which is something many of us could use a refresher course in. We watch as this boy strives to become more than what he is, and to share it with the world. But what’s in it for us?
Jonas (Maleficent’s Brenton Thwaites) and his friends Asher (Shamless’s Cameron Monaghan) and Fiona (The Odd Life of Timothy Green’s Odeya Rush) start their journey into adulthood at the age of 16. Each is given a role in the community, assigned by the ‘elders’. Nothing is left up to choice, and everyone is told exactly how to live. When Jonas is given the role of Receiver, he must follow in the steps of the previous one. Jeff Bridges plays his role wisely and becomes The Giver. When Jonas learns the truth, he decides to leave his community and go ‘beyond’. Yes, this is the stuff of classic dystopian fiction, but the film is artful and visually stunning, drawing from a watershed work in the genre.
A cast which includes Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, Taylor Swift, and Katie Holmes are bound to boost tickets, but for all their exposure, Katie’s and Taylor’s roles are so small they’re almost unnecessary. Katie’s one line almost feels like a punch line to a joke, and the shock value of who Taylor plays falls short and doesn’t make any real difference in the story (while in the book it felt so much more important). This doesn’t take away from Swift’s thoughts on the film though, who had this to say about her involvement:
The standout here, unsurprisingly, is Jeff Bridges. Audiences will definitely enjoy listening to his voice as the Giver, and experiencing the sounds and images he shares with Jonas. The film almost succeeds in making it feel like going into one of those Disney rides at Epcot.
As for the rest of The Giver, it’s hard to compare the book to film, especially since the cerebral and very internal book provides so little material to draw from. There are many reasons fans of the Young Adult Literature classic will be disappointed, the biggest of which is how much the movie reveals at the end (ie, too much). It’s definitely satisfying and respectful, but it takes away from The Giver’s source material.
After seeing The Giver, let YAMag know what your thoughts are on the film! Should Hollywood continue making YA books into feature films, or should they be left alone (like that is ever going to happen)? Tweet us @YAMzine with your answer!