Family Movie Review: The Giver

The Giver, based on the novel by Lois Lowry, came to the big screen in 2014.  And, while the first in the popular series by Lowry (see my review for Messenger, the third in the quartet) was flying off the shelves by young adult fantasy readers, others skipped the book altogether and headed straight for the theater.

First, this was a book I read because my son was reading it and I try to read what he's reading.  I liked (not loved) the book for it's beautiful, descriptive language and important messages. However, we both felt it was drawn out a bit at the end.  Nonetheless, this book relied heavily on detailed images created via beautiful prose.  So, I wondered how they were going to pull this movie off. Well, honestly, they didn't.

At best the movie was a Cliff's Notes version of the book.  In its defense, The Giver is not an easy novel to adapt to the big screen. From what I've encountered, the majority of people who enjoyed the movie did not read the book.  The best part of the film was the "memories," the artistic, color images of life in our current world. They stirred up many emotions and personal memories.  However, I believe the importance of most of those events will go unnoticed by young viewers. 

Even Meryl Streep's performance as the Chief Elder couldn't save this film for me.  The movie changed SO much of the book and not necessarily for the better.  For one thing, in the novel Jonas is 12. Were there no talented 12-year-old actors out there?  However, with so many plot changes, it's almost as if the filmmakers HAD to make the film version of Jonas older.  Also, the community didn't come alive like it did in the book. Not enough is explained. The Giver, played by Jeff Bridges, didn't evoke half the emotion in me as the character did when I read the novel.  

Overall, the film is rated PG-13 for  mature thematic images and some sci-fi action/violence.  There are two violent scenes: a flashback of war and a brutal poaching scene on elephants that nearly ripped my heart out. Honestly, I just don't think younger viewers will enjoy or comprehend the main message of this film. 

The story is about a dystopian community that portrays yet another bleak outlook of the future of humanity (isn't that what most YA fiction books are about these days? - think The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze Runner.)  Imagine a world with no wildlife, no emotions, no free-choice?  NO, THANK YOU! Unfortunately, the filmmakers just didn't capture these elements enough for me to recommend the film.  If you read the book, I believe you will be very disappointed.  If you didn't read the book, you might enjoy some aspects of the film. Nothing about this film grabbed me except the stunning cinematography. In my opinion The Giver, along with the other novels in the quartet, are meant to be read and not adapted into motion pictures. 

Official Trailer Courtesy of YouTube


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