Lois Lowry’s original novel – a training-wheels dystopia usually assigned to 10-year-olds in preparation for headier stuff like 1984 – was for kids, but it wasn’t for idiots. The same can’t be said of the movie, which takes a muted if simplistic allegory and updates it for the Hunger Games crowd. Like the book, the film begins in black and white, gradually colourising as teen protagonist Jonas (a blank-slate Thwaites) learns to ‘see’ his peaceful but emotionless community for what it really is, a process triggered by receiving memories (which mostly take the form of stock footage) from the titular Giver (Bridges, going from curmudgeonly to grandfatherly at record speed). But what should be a deepening student-mentor relationship between the two is glanced over in favour of an invented romantic subplot with Odeya Rush’s Fiona, an obvious villain (chief elder Streep), a forced race-against-the-clock ending and some cookie-cutter dialogue of the “we used to call it... LOVE” variety. Plus Taylor Swift, why not. Readers have waited over two decades for a film adaptation, and it’s frustrating but not surprising that the result, ostensibly all about memory, would end up so forgettable.
The Giver | Directed by Phillip Noyce (USA 2014) with Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep. Starts October 2
Originally published in issue #131, October 2014.