I’ve been imagining what a movie adaptation of The Giver would look like ever since I read the book in middle school. It was one of those books that really stuck with me growing up because it made me think. I read it multiple times throughout my childhood. And so, when I found out that they were working on a film version of the story, I was ecstatic. I absolutely could not wait. And the movie did not disappoint.
The Giver is a dystopian film set in a post-apocalyptic future. It tells the story of Jonas, a young man who grows up in a community without color, emotion, or choice. Jonas and his two best friends, Asher and Fiona, come of age and are given their life-long Assignments, or careers. Jonas is specially chosen to be the receiver of memory, the person who retains the memories of the past (the world we currently live in) that normal citizens of the community are unaware of. Through his training, Jonas comes to see the brokenness of the system he has grown up in and has to figure out how to deal with that.
For what originated as a children’s story, The Giver is very deep. It touches on themes of freedom, despair, and ultimately on whether or not human nature is capable of doing any amount of good on its own. The message of the story is one that will connect with a lot of people, and it will hopefully make you think at least a little bit.
The differences between the book and the movie are numerous. The main characters are older in the movie than in the book. A lot of the smaller details (like Asher and Fiona’s assignments) were changed for the sake of the film. Several story elements were added in order to make the film full-length. And the defining characteristic that sets gifted individuals (like Jonas) apart from others was changed from eye color (which is difficult to convey in film) to a special birthmark on the person’s wrist. These differences were noticeable, but they weren’t necessarily distracting.
Really what this movie was trying to do was take a children’s book that made a huge impact and make it more concrete, something people of all ages might be able to access. It tried to be a realistic, fully-fleshed-out story, and I think it accomplished that while also staying true to the basic idea of the book. So I was happy with it both as a movie and as an adaption of The Giver.
They did make one choice that I’m conflicted about, though. In the book, there was almost no romance at all. The people in Jonas’s community didn’t have that. They were assigned mates, so romance wasn’t a part of their lives. Jonas had one fleeting moment of romantic feeling in the book, but that was it. In the film, a good portion of the drama revolves around a romance story involving Jonas. I understand why the filmmakers decided to do that (Jonas is older in the film than the book, it makes the movie more appealing, etc.), but I also sort of wish they had left it out. Not only was it just simply not based on the book at all, but it creates some issues for the future if they decide to make film versions of the book’s sequels, Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son. I really hope they make those movies (and there was at least one hint in the movie that they might), but if they do, they’ll have to reconcile the revisions they made to plot with the way the story plays out in the books. It will be interesting to see.
But overall, The Giver was a great film. I think it’s definitely worth seeing. It’s something that people of all ages can enjoy and connect with, and in that way, it’s just like the book it was based on. So check out The Giver in theaters, and let me know what you think about it! Thanks for reading, friends, and I’ll see you on Tuesday.