The Giver

Cast: Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites,
Alexander Skarsgård, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift,
Cameron Monaghan, Odeya Rush
Direction: Phillip Noyce
Genre: Drama
Duration: 1 hour 37 minutes

Story:

Jonas (Thwaite) lives in a utopian society that celebrates conformity and uniformity to preserve peace. He is chosen to be the next ‘Receiver of Memory’ and learn about the primal feelings of the past world. The more he learns, the more he realizes how fake his carefully engineered society is.

Review:

A squeaky-clean city is portrayed in flat monochrome (a visual metaphor for a society controlled by a rigid code of rules, where individualism and the questioning of authority are discouraged) and is perched on a hilltop and surrounded entirely by clouds. Its inhabitants dress more or less the same, aren’t allowed to hold hands in public and they eat food that looks like it was cooked by a robot.

Narrator and protagonist Jonas has a mom (Holmes) who repeatedly tut-tuts him, his dad (Skarsgard) and little sister when they say the ‘wrong’ things because in their perfect world, their entire lexicon is monitored by the seemingly benevolent Chief Elder (Streep).

Emotions are excised from daily life and townsfolk are even told what time to go to sleep. All of this is done because it is believed a machinelike existence will keep mankind’s ills (wars, famine, deforestation, etc.) away from them. The Elder assigns people job roles in the manner of an assembly line sorting products. After Jonas is given his important role, the Receiver (Bridges, suitably grizzled) has to pass on these memories to Jonas.

Jonas is established as free-thinking, curious and even rebellious, and so the idea of giving insightful and revelatory thoughts to someone who has the potential to upset the carefully constructed order of things seems puzzling and even illogical. Despite the impressive cast (Taylor Swift has a cameo), performances are uneven. Bridges and Streep stand out but the others are somewhat unconvincing.

Conceptually, there are also bits reminiscent of *The Matrix* some Orwellian Big Brother ideology and dashes of *Divergent* in an overall attempt to convey the film’s core message – do we sacrifice pain and pleasure in the quest to attain a ‘perfect’ existence?

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