Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Giver: Finally a YA Novel Adaptation I Can Get Behind

For some reason I missed out on The Giver by Lois Lowry.  It seems everyone read that book besides me.  I can remember younger grades reading it in high school so perhaps I missed the mark by a couple years.  The point is that I went into the film with clear eyes and very little idea of what the concept was besides the fact that it was another teen dystopian flick to throw on top of the pile.  2014 has been the year of the YA novel adaptation and The Giver directed by Phillip Noyce is a good way to round out such a year.  With less of a focus on romance, the film takes on larger, more existential questions in that the society in which protagonist Jonas lives is devoid of color and feeling.  In the year 2048, society has rebuilt itself after a devastating event which we know nothing about.  Now, human beings live high on a plateau where their self-sustaining society survives by eliminating all feelings like anger, jealously, and other negative actions and emotions as well as love, joy and hope.  In every sense of the word, their world is a utopia which basically survives on the idea that no one knows any different.  Everyone is equal and is assigned a job for life upon turning 18.  When young Jonas is left out of the selection process it is revealed that he has been chosen to be the new “Receiver”, the person charged with experiencing the past and history of the human race so that he may preserve it for future generations.  Jonas is sent to the edge of the community to work with the Giver, the old Receiver who is tasked with teaching Jonas about what it truly means to be human.  While certain things inspire Jonas like hope and love, others like war, violence, and fear confuse and frighten him.  As Jonas’ training progresses he starts to discover the lies underneath the surface of their picturesque society and seeks a way to change everything.  The Giver was a success in that it showcases what it means to be human.  Part of what makes us who we are is our ability to feel and though that sometimes leads to horrific outcomes, life just isn’t worth living without it.  In the end, love is the most important thing and once someone experiences that, there truly is no going back.  Managing to focus on love without getting too heavily into romance is difficult, especially in the YA genre and yet The Giver manages to draw a distinction between the two which I was overjoyed to see.  In this way the film was significantly better than other adaptations this year like The Mortal Instruments and Divergent whose plots center almost entirely on the young female protagonist’s new love interest.  Overall, I would recommend the film.  It’s a decent sci-fi story and has some great actors including Jeff Bridges as the Giver and Meryl Streep as the stone faced Chief Elder; definitely a good way to round out the years other dystopian flops.

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