The Giver (2014) Directed by: Phillip Noyce Edited by: Barry Alexander BrownScreenplay by: Michael Mitnick& Robert B. Weide Based on the book by: Lowis Lowry
*This post contains spoilers to both the book and the movie.*
The movie starts off in black and white, showing the audience the perfect little community in which Sameness is prevalent. Here nothing has any distinguishing characteristics. Everyone is polite, forced to talk about their feelings with the utmost "precision of language" and are selected into their professions by the town elders. Jonas (Brenton Thwaite), along with his best friends Fiona (Odeya Rush) and Ash (Cameron Monaghan) are about to be selected into their life-long careers when we meet them. Jonas nervously fears he has been overlooked when he learns that instead of being selected to a job, he has been chosen to become the next Receiver of Memory. He will receive the memories of the past - the entire history of humankind.
Upon receiving memories such as color, warmth, music, and love, Jonas feels that all the memories he and The Giver have must be shared with the community at large so that they may fully understand what it is to be human. With a half-baked plan, Jonas and The Giver attempt to share their memories, both good and bad, with the community. The movie deviated from the book in what, to me, are very crucial areas. 1. In the book, Jonas is only 12 when he is chosen to take on the memories of humankind. In the movie, he is aged six years. One may argue that in this world of sameness, their ages do not matter too much but that is simply not true. Even if they are both naive and sheltered, their ages differ greatly in maturity. Each time Book Jonas receives a memory he is aged tremendously. Each one being almost too much for him to handle. Movie Jonas is almost an adult, still sheltered and clueless but with a better grasp on his mentality, maturity, and self-awareness. At 12, Book Jonas is barely old enough to understand the world of Sameness he lives in; to have him receive memories like war, starvation, and famine from a world unknown to him is intensely more traumatic.
2. In the movie, Jonas is able to share his gifts with Fiona and others. This really annoys me because we know that Jonas isn't allowed to do share his gift. Being The Receiver is a job solely for him. He must handle the pain alone. He must endure the memories himself so that others won't. It's not only about the good but more about the bad. He is selflessly receiving these memories so that everyone else may live free from pain, hunger, confusion, and fear. The people of the community do not have the capacity to "see beyond" or "hear beyond" unless they are to be the next Receiver. By being able to share his gift, his position is no longer as important or direly needed. 3. The friendship between Jonas, Fiona, and Ash in the movie completely negates and subverts the laws of Sameness in the book. In the beginning, it may seem as if they are friends who chose each other to be loyal to by a fondness and understanding but we know that isn't true. They are drawn together for reasons that are superficial. Their friendship is not real in the true sense of the word. 4. Which brings me to the love angle they made between Jonas and Fiona. In the movie, Fiona is able to resist taking her medicine and starts to get feelings for Jonas even though she cannot name them. This makes the The Giver and The Receiver's jobs completely worthless. It's saying that with a little talking, some laughing, these people can become fully aware to emotions that have long ago been banished. But these people have been modified their entire lives. They cannot understand love unless they experience it. And there is no way for them to experience it without the memories. There is no reason to add a love story. Not everything in life turns out the way you want it to. You can't solve everything with a kiss and a lingering glance. Sometimes, the person you love doesn't feel the same way for you. That doesn't make the story a bad one, it gives the emptiness you feel a purpose.
The entire movie felt so rushed that you don't have much time to invest in any of the characters, which is the complete opposite of the novel. The novel is completely about Jonas and even without a kiss and a motorcycle chase scene, you're invested in his story. The movie felt as if they were scared they wouldn't keep the ADD audiences of today captivated for so long. Which is a complete shame because I would have sat through two, two and a half hours, of film if it showed what Lowry accomplished in her slow, careful composition. Two things I did like about the movie: Jeff Bridges and the way they play with color and black and white within the world. That's about it. If you haven't seen the movie, do yourself a favor and keep your 10$. Read the book instead.