By Eric Marcy, guest writer
With dystopian science fiction films featuring teenaged protagonists becoming all the rage over the last several years in Hollywood, it really is a shame that one of the better adaptations to come out of the recent craze (as well as by far the subgenre’s finest literary example) seems to be slipping under the radar.
Phillip Noyce’s interpretation of Lois Lowry’s classic novel is undeserving of its middling box office reception, and The Giver is a good bit better than many have been led to believe.
Noyce stays fairly faithful to the heart of Lowry’s novel, in which the main character Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) lives in a society that has done away with color, deep emotions and diversity for the sake of peace. Jonas is chosen to be the community’s “Receiver of Memory” and will be trained by the current Receiver (played in a now-familiar mentor role by Jeff Bridges) to experience all the memories that their society has abandoned so he can provide advice to the elders. As Jonas begins to experience both the joys and pains of the old world, however, he begins to see his community in an entirely different light.
The Giver’s best selling point is its visual flare which, under the direction of Noyce and cinematographer Ross Emery, intelligently incorporates color and memory into the very fabric of the story. Initially drenched in black and white, the film gradually allows colors to flow in and out depending on character’s perspectives and emotions.
At times a girl’s hair may glimmer in its actual auburn hue, or a bee flash yellow amidst the dull and pervasive gray. Suddenly, during one of many of Jonas’s sessions with “the giver”, a sunset gloriously bursts forth upon the ocean, and the audience basks at the glory and majesty of the natural world. Moments like these (the joyous and thrilling experience of sledding, the tragic violence of war) revealed through the naive eyes of Jonas and the power of contrast, restore a sense of wonder and shock at the miracle that is life.
Credit must also be given to composer Marco Beltrami who weaves a beautiful tapestry of sound, including a haunting main theme and some excellent choral-work. The acting is solid around the board (Bridges is a standout, while Thwaites captures the innocent and ignorant nature of Jonas), and a romantic subplot between Jonas and Fiona (Odeya Rush) is a delight, as two young people literally discover love for the first time.
The Giver explores a myriad of social issues within the greater life that it celebrates, touching on individuality, the price of security, human greed and even euthanasia and abortion. It really is rare to find a film marketed for the entire family willing to tackle such hefty issues, and the filmmakers should be commended for not shying away from the themes Lowry wove so intimately into her work.
Readers of the book may be disappointed, however, by the rapidity with which certain pivotal events happen, robbing them of some emotional weight. A brief appearance by Taylor Swift in a significant role proves a bit distracting, and the final act of the film squanders much of the momentum that had been built up before, lacking the tension that drives the initial plot.
Thankfully, however, the ending holds up, bringing the ideas and themes of the film full circle. The Giver is by no means a perfect adaptation, and some may claim it is flawed, but it captures the beautiful essence of the story in a visual fashion so remarkable that anyone who wants a meaningful and thought-provoking trip to the theater will be well-served.
Eric Marcy is a junior English major.