After reading The Giver Quartet, I decided to watch the 2014 film adaptation. The movie has received mixed reviews and I agree with the average rating of 6.5/10 (according to Amazon) (3.5/5 on Rotten Tomatoes). It’s a middle-of-the-road score for a movie that is neither horrible, nor especially impressive or memorable.
In the way of book-to-film adaptations, I’ve seen far worse than The Giver. That said, book readers will notice a few minutes into the film that this is primarily an attempt by the filmmakers to jump aboard the Hollywood YA Dystopia craze currently in effect. The additions of drones, a visibly controlling community leader, and romance are a definite departure from the source material which focuses much more on emotion than physical action.
The primary plot remains largely true to the book until the last portion of the film. Unlike their book counterparts, Jonas’ friends and family become directly involved in his rebellion when he escapes the Community with baby Gabe. Fiona’s role is the most radically changed. Rather than a secondary character whom Jonas has a small crush on, she becomes a confidant, a conspirator, a romantic interest who reciprocates Jonas’ feelings, and a rebel willing to die for helping him escape. This plot point eats up a bit too much screen time. Threatening Fiona’s life to heighten the dramatic tension of the film’s last minutes was a creative decision I felt was unneeded.
The book has readers holding their breath until the last page due to Lois Lowry’s gripping narration as a young boy and baby fight for their lives. This part of the story alone provides plenty of suspense, yet the movie reduces Jonas and Gabe’s journey to a few short scenes juxtaposed with scenes of Fiona and Jonas’ family struggling with the consequences of his decision to flee. I thought it entirely unnecessary to introduce these additions to the story.
As for what I did like, I enjoyed the contrast of black and white in the film’s beginning with color at the end, the portrayal of the cold, robotic Community as well as the bonds between Jonas, the Giver, and Gabriel.
As for the acting, while the characters have obviously been aged for the film adaptation, Brenton Thwaites (Jonas) conveys the emotions and pressures of the protagonist well. Despite big names like Meryl Streep among the cast, the film ultimately fails to portray the philosophical and emotional depth of the book, but no performance is particularly cringe-worthy.
My suggestion is this: If you have a rainy afternoon and nothing else to watch, give The Giver a chance. But if you never see it, it’s no great loss.
What are your thoughts on The Giver?