The Giver is yet another youthful dystopian story, joining The Hunger Games and Divergent on the ever-growing list. It serves as a metaphor for adolescence – a coming-of-age story where the protagonist learns the truths of the world that cause his innocence and naivety to fade, while adult figures of authority attempt to quash his feelings of rebellion and draw him back to conformity. And it is exactly as it sounds: an extremely similar plot template to every dystopia film ever, which everyone has seen too many times.
However, this is not the fault of the plot. The Giver is based on a novel of the same name, written by Lois Lowry in 1993, which was a trailblazer in dystopian fiction (predating Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth). Therefore, the problem with the film: it was made too late. Timing is everything – and time was not on the side of The Giver. Instead of the innovative story it was obviously meant to be, it seemed more like a replica of the others.
The film follows Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), a boy living in a seemingly perfect world, who, upon graduation, is apprenticed to the Giver (Jeff Bridges). Here, Jonas will be taught how terrible the world used to be (including the ‘good’ parts, like love), before the erasure that lead to their current society. The more he learns, the more he realises how mindlessly conditioned the people around him are, and the more he wants to act, to the horror of the elders.
The theme of ‘giving’ is one that weighs heavily on the main characters. The knowledge gained by Jonas from the Giver is not one for the faint hearted – seen when the previous apprentice is unable to cope with the pressure of knowing the past. Though giving is depicted as rather negative, there are also positive connotations of giving the truth: the less time the truth is withheld, the better the reaction.
With a strong supporting cast, including Meryl Streep, Alexander Skarsgård, and Katie Holmes (with a cameo from Taylor Swift), the performance and production are solidly good, but the quality is no longer the point, due to the fact that the dystopia has missed its window, as the sub-genre is well along the way to having run its course.