The Giver: The Good, The Bad, and The Holy 

What would the world look like without suffering? Can you even imagine it? Who wouldn't wish for a life without the debilitating effects of terminal cancer, disease, and war? Better yet, what about a place that can eliminate discrimination, prejudice of race, and poverty? It certainly sounds good. The only cost for this world would be a few innocuous elements of your life like beauty, nature, and free-will. Would you trade those for peace on earth?

In The Giver, a new utopia is presented where there is no unemployment, relationship problems and what was that other thing...oh yeah, emotions. The society is built on Sameness a genetic and economic initiative that eliminates all differences in order to create a safer world. 

It is essentially a society without God. Well, more like a society which builds itself as God. Sameness is run by a council of elders whose societal decisions include: blocking out the Sun as to manipulate the weather, mandating how many children a family can apply for, assigning its citizens their careers, and writing the moral code all people must abide by. Who would let this happen and what about the human conscious you may ask? It is chemically pushed aside through the daily doses of prescriptive drugs they lawfully oblige citizens to inject. What seems like a utopia at first slowly reveals itself as a dystopia. 

The Giver is an actual person in this society who was chosen to obtain all of the memories and real emotions of the past world (AKA our world today). His position is titled "Receiver of Memories" and at the beginning of the film a new "Receiver of Memories" is chosen to take his place. Jonas, a young eager graduate, is given this position because of his ability to "see beyond." His real ability is to see "truth". After receiving memories of joy and pain, Jonas discovers the utopian hoax that the society has been forcing on its people. He attempts to undo the many years of brainwashing that Sameness has established.

Lois Lowry's book "The Giver" discusses all of these themes for a very young audience. The film version tries to adapt the book's simplistic genius, but falls short many times. However, this is not a review to discuss why the book is better, but a review to highlight the film's Good, Bad, and Holy qualities. 

The Good 
The film delivers some very powerful visuals that make for deep conversations, especially for families and small groups. It tackles tough content such as, euthanasia, infanticide, capital punishment, and controlled sexual reproduction. The themes are not only relevant to today's society but are presented particularly for a younger audience.

The film inspires with it’s stunning visuals of the beauty of nature like snow, the ocean, and the sun. The fairly simple shots shown in context of a character who has never seen them before reminds us all of what beauty exists in our lives. As Jonas receives memories from the Giver, he feels them as if they were his own experiences. To witness his reactions to beauty for the first time is a nice touch that the film has over the book, the fact that we can see what he is seeing. It reminded me of the Youtube clip of the little girl experiencing rain for the first time. There is something about it that fills you with joy! Check it out here, but after you finish reading. Once you watch it you will forget about this blog!

The films promotes an awareness of societal numbness. The kids in the film are forced to inject themselves everyday with a dose of an emotion-decreasing drug. They become limited in their perception of the holistic society and the world. They stop asking questions about why things are the way they are. When you have lost the ability to question, you have lost your ability to think.

We are experiencing a current generation shrouded in numbness and overly enveloped in self involvement. The film does a great job at promoting the affects of this sort of society. It reminded me of "The Village", another film about controlling people through fear and attempting to eliminate all human suffering. What happens when you eliminate suffering though? You eliminate beauty as well. There is no beauty without suffering like there is no baby without the pains of childbirth, no coral without years of water erosion, or no mountain without a hole.

The Bad
This film is certainly not for everyone. The directing does not stand out and the cast doesn’t shine as much as it does on the movie poster. They were trying very hard to get today’s youth into the seats, which is why they added Taylor Swift in as a cameo. 

Even with Meryl Streep, Jeff bridges and Swift the movie still felt incomplete. It’s because the pacing in Lowry’s book allows for much time spent between Jonas and The Giver. You see a relationship blossom and it becomes evident that a sincere friendship is built between them. The film spends more time developing a relationship between Jonas and his girlfriend rather than with the Giver. The film was trying to attach a romantic story where the book did not offer. 

Also the film uses real footage from Youtube clips, current media, and some documentaries to portray the prior state of the human race as Jonas is receiving memories. The footage is meticulously placed with inspirational music layered over to force out an emotion from the audience. (Did you pay attention to the music used in the clip of the little girl and rain?) They do this because it masks the lack of performance from the actors. We generally don’t care about these characters like we do in the book, but put solid images to inspiring music and you have got yourself a tearjerker! I think this is because of a lack of directing rather than acting because the cast is strong, just outside this movie. 

The film also becomes very predictable due to the pacing and the obvious placement of narrative. You already know the ending before you ever get to the middle of the film. They did not know how to properly imbed the exposition of the story throughout the screenplay.

The Holy
Now with that being said, the film offers a layer of spiritual content that is not seen in many movies nowadays. The Giver is society's version of Jesus. They need someone to take upon the weight and memories of the entire world. The truth is that no mortal man can bear this weight. Which is why only a God/Man could be the one to remove sin. Sameness eliminated religion thus eliminating the possibility of a savior, yet they were still able to recognize that Sameness needed a type of savior, one who could carry all of the beauty, but also all of the pain from its past. This was the only way Sameness could work. 

Even within this dystopian society God is still present. No matter how many gifts the Elders rejected from their Creator, God still placed gifts into a few individuals like Jonas and baby Gabriel, those who can see beyond or as I call it Truth. God uses Jonas to end the restriction of memories. Jonas freely chooses to sacrifice his life to bring back all of the memories in the dystopian society, a true Christ figure.

We discover that suffering and beauty are necessary in life because the appreciation for beauty is intensified when one chooses to suffer for it. Sameness preaches freedom, but it is choice that is the ultimate freedom. Choosing to suffer is choosing beauty. Yes, there is unnecessary suffering in the world, but we cannot simply uproot the grass with the weeds. Rather we must simply feed the grass so that the weeds can no longer grow. Choosing to do good is holier than being forced to behave and it is more effective. 

While the world of The Giver is pushing Sameness in this world it is ignoring the after life where there will be a kind of sameness, which is a oneness with God. The big difference is that we will still hold to our individual selves while experiencing an intense unification with God and the celestial society. In this world there is truly one Giver, God three in one, who truly did take on the suffering of the entire world so that the entire world could freely choose this beatific life. While all suffering will be eliminated it has now been weeded out from beauty. Beauty exists in abundance as intended, but suffering will finally cease. 

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