As a lot of you have probably surmised by now, one of my boyfriend’s and my favorite type of date is going to the movies. What can I say; we like stories and we’re skeptics. Not gonna lie. Recently, I’d been hearing a lot of good reports on the new movie The Giver, so Monday night we went on an impromptu date to go and see it. Unlike any of the other movies we’ve gone to recently, we walked into the theater actually holding out some hope for this one.
The Giver is a story about a community of people who have been stripped of past memories and emotions. Everything is based on sameness. On oneness. The people take a daily injection to keep them in this state. Everyone, that is, aside from the Receiver of Memory, a position awarded to the young protagonist, Jonas. When Jonas receives the memories of the past, along with his emotion, he begins to see things in a new way. The truth about the community comes to light, and he must find a way to stop it, or lose the people he has come to love most.
Spoiler alert! Proceed at own risk.
I’m going to be honest here and say that I don’t even know where to start. I’m used to writing reviews about movies that suck, because, let’s be frank, most of them do. But I’m just going to come out and say this: The Giver was one of the most fabulous films I have ever seen. Everyone should see it.
Despite their initial emotionless state, all of the characters in The Giver are very well-done and relatable. I believe we feel sympathy for them because they don’t feel emotion. Because they are missing a piece of themselves. And not only missing; it has been stolen.
The main character, Jonas starts out as a normal boy living in this community of sameness. His world is black and white. Meaningless. He drifts throughout his days like everyone else, but somehow, he’s different. Unlike others in the community, he glimpses color. It is his desire to seek and to dig for the meaning behind this that connects with the audience, because deep down, we all hunger for more.
Jonas’ life is forever changed when he meets the Giver of Memory, the only man in the community who possesses the memory of the past, or who feels emotion. It is the Giver who teaches the ability to not only remember, but to hope, to grieve, to fear, and to love. He tells us that from love comes faith and hope, and the strength to fight the fear and sorrow.
The Chief Elder, the story’s antagonist, is a very interesting character, because, throughout the story, we don’t get the impression that she is evil as much as afraid. She’s afraid of fear, afraid to love, and afraid to lose control. The answer to this is sameness. If everyone is the same, there is no war, no envy, no hatred. But neither is there love, joy, hope, or true peace. So she, through the community, controls everyone with an iron fist.
Other characters worth mentioning are Asher and Fiona, Jonas’ childhood friends, and Gabe, a little, unwanted baby who will be “released to Elsewhere” because he is an “uncertain.” Asher and Fiona, despite living in the community, each starve for something more. Particularly Fiona, who we see is afraid to follow Jonas and share his memory, but at the same time, desires it more than anything. She wants to feel things. Deep down, she knows something has been stolen from her. And Gabe is the promise of the future. The hope of things yet to come. The hope that one day, things will be different, and real again.
The story begins with Jonas, Fiona, and Asher’s Graduation Day; the day on which they receive the various tasks they will be assigned to in the community. But when Jonas is left out of the choosing, things turn upside-down. Instead, he is to be given the highest position in the community: the Receiver of Memory. He will be given the memories of the past so that he may advise the Elders what to do in the future. Only one person in the community may possess this ability, therefore isolating Jonas.
But when Jonas glimpses the past, and the color, he begins to feel things again. The Giver shows him memories that he wants to share with others. But sharing memories is against the rules in the community. When Jonas is caught showing his memories to Fiona, and worse, kissing her; teaching her how to feel again, he becomes a target of the Chief Elder, who realizes he is no longer an asset, but a rebel.
It is shortly after this that Jonas makes a startling discovery. His father is in charge of the “releases” to Elsewhere. Now that Jonas has had memory returned to him, he realizes that the release to Elsewhere is a lie. The unwanted children deemed “unfit” for the community are not being released to anywhere; they are being killed. With this realization, Jonas’ curiosity turns to anger, and fear for Gabe. Determined to save the baby and show the people of the community what really happens inside their borders, Jonas seeks out the Giver for advice.
The Giver explains to Jonas that he must travel outside the community, past a force field known as The Border of Memory, because, if any Receiver crosses it, memory will return to the community. As it happens, the Giver has been waiting for someone like Jonas. He has wanted to fight back since the loss of his daughter, Rosemary, whom he once tried to impart memories to.
But Jonas is digging too deep for the Chief Elder. By keeping tabs on him with her many security cameras, she has learned all of his plans and sets out to stop him before he can save Gabe and escape the community. Realizing that he is running out of time, Jonas runs to the hospital where Fiona works and pleads for her help. She refuses to follow him out of the community because she is afraid, but agrees to help him find Gabe. Jonas then barely manages to exit the community borders with Gabe, while Fiona is apprehended for aiding him, and threatened with Release to Elsewhere.
There was some good, unexpected tension when Asher shows up to stop Jonas on behalf of the Chief Elder, but changes his mind and lets him go. Jonas then struggles to make his way across the mountains to the Border of Memory, restoring the memories and emotions of the people in the community.
I’m devoting an entire segment to this, because, unlike other movies, this one actually had one. Or a few. Honestly, I think The Giver is a movie that will take a couple of run-throughs to glean all of the richness buried within it.
One of the most prevalent themes was that of how the culture and government wants to steal what it is that makes us human. As the Elders take away memory, the government is trying to water down our history; make it “politically correct.” The media creates stories completely void of meaning or emotion. They harden people. Together, they try and make us dependent upon them for everything. They want to unite us into one. They want their own version of sameness, and they want control.
The other prevalent theme was the value of life. It is the realization that the “uncertains” (the children who are not deemed useful) are being killed en masse, that causes Jonas to fight back. This is a perfect mirror of abortion in our society, and how God created human life to be valued and protected.
If there’s one thing I can say about The Giver, it is that I cannot recommend it enough. This movie was fantastic on so many different levels, it blew my mind. Sam and I walked out of the theater that evening in a zombie-like state of awe, shocked that something this good could come out of Hollywood. And the fact that, with all of its Christian themes, it managed to pass through is a miracle. As I said earlier, everyone should see this.