The Giver (12A)



SciFi (2014)
97mins US

Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Alexander Skarsgard, Taylor Swift, Odeya Rush, Katie Holmes, Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges
Director: Phillip Noyce
Writer(s): Michael Mitnick, Robert B Weide
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

In the mid 21st-century, mankind has been devastated by war. The survivors decide to erase the citizens' memories, as well as their feelings, except for those of one trusted individual, The Giver, who passes on his or her memories to a Receiver when the time comes. Jonas has been chosen as the Receiver in his community and he begins to receive memories from The Giver. As he receives more memories, Jonas comes to the belief that every citizen should be blessed with recollections of the past.

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LondonNet Film Review
The Giver (12A)

Happiness is an illusion in The Giver, a sci-fi thriller based on the best-selling novel by Lois Lowry about a highly regimented society, which erases memories of the past in order to secure a utopian future. Children are genetically engineered and placed with parents, who raise them until a ceremony which designates a role to each young adult. Citizens don't see colour and they have no concept of dishonesty, hunger, jealousy, suffering, violence or wrath. Sameness is cherished: identical family structures, identical homes, identical clothes. Everybody fits in because society has been designed that way...

The Giver. Copyright: David Bloomer/2014 The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved. Caption: Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgard star in The Giver. Photo: David Bloomer. Copyright: 2014 The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved. In Phillip Noyce's film, conformity also snuffs out love, passion and defiance - the sparks to the flame of the indefatigable human spirit - until one intelligent young man speaks out. Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) lives in apparent bliss with his parents (Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes), little sister Lily (Emma Tremblay) and best friends Fiona (Odeya Rush) and Asher (Cameron Monaghan). At the annual graduation ceremony, the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) christens Jonas the new Receiver of Memories. He will become the community's keeper of ancient recollections that are denied to the rest of the populous. "You will learn the secret history of the world - before you, before me, generations back," explains the Giver of Memories (Jeff Bridges), who introduces the teenager to terrifying concepts of pain, sadness, war and death.

This brutal education arouses Jonas's true feelings for Fiona and the young man dares to suggest that every citizen should be blessed with memories of the past - good and bad - which marks him as a dangerous rebel in the eyes of the Council of Elders. The Giver matures the book's 12-year-old hero to a handsome teenager in order to appeal to audiences who have thrilled and swooned to the vastly superior The Hunger Games and Divergent franchises. Michael Mitnick and Robert B Weide's script simplifies themes to keep the running time trim, leaving us - perhaps fittingly - in a similar state to the futuristic populace: unmoved and apathetic.

Noyce's film is as bland as the colourless world that Jonas inhabits, starving the thinly sketched characters of emotion and the cast of anything to sink their teeth into. Thwaites is a sympathetic hero but Bridges and Streep are squandered and the central romance with Rush doesn't achieve a single prickle of sexual tension. Chastity is dutifully upheld apart from a couple of lingering, wet kisses. Vibrant red seeps into the black and white cinematography as Jonas's eyes are opened to the truth, and Noyce introduces action elements including a cliff top chase to the turgid teen angst, augmented with workmanlike special effects. Audiences who receive The Giver will experience a similar memory wipe to Jonas and his kin and forget everything about the film as the end credits roll.

- Kim Hu

The Giver. Copyright: David Bloomer/2014 The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved. Caption: Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgard star in The Giver. Photo: David Bloomer. Copyright: 2014 The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved.


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