Wish this performed better. So in a seemingly utopian (and a little bit communist) society, teenagers are hand-selected for what occupation they will be doing for the rest of their days. Our protagonist, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) gets chosen for a very special position: Receiver of Memory, which means he will experience every joy, pain and heartache from previous society, so there is a fail safe to ensure that we don’t make the same mistakes again. This is based on a young adult book that I absolutely love; it is extremely well written, so much so that it won the Newbery Medal award (that’s that gold stamp you see on every single copy). It’s a fast read, too; you can easily read this in one sitting, and being that it is so easy to transpose yourself onto Jonas and feel every single emotion he experiences, it keeps you turning onto the next page wanting more. Despite getting middling reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (currently sitting at 35%), I am of the opinion that everybody else is wrong, and most of this played out exactly how I envisioned it in my head.
This is the kind of sci-fi I love; lots of big ideas regarding society, but told within a very personal and relatable story. Now these are two very different movies, but what this reminded me of in a number of different ways is 2013’s Ender’s Game; both are mind-blowingly brilliant sci-fi books that merit multiple readings, and their film adaptations are well-handled; at the very least, they serve as high quality visual CliffsNotes. According to online sources (it’s on the internet, it has to be true), Jeff Bridges has been trying to get this off the ground for the better part of a decade, as it has been a passion project for him. And you can tell that he was inspired by this, too; I felt that he, Meryl Streep and Thwaites were completely onboard with this, as evident by the commitment of their performances. Even if you are the biggest of skeptics and want to whine about Taylor Swift being in the movie, she’s barely in it, and if there hadn’t been casting news on movie websites, I wouldn’t have even noticed. My complaints regarding this are so few and far between, I’m actually very curious to read some of these negative reviews, just to see what possible problems I may be overlooking.
My only true criticism that I have about this is something that I will seldom ever complain about in this medium: it could be expanded upon for a longer runtime, and it would have been an even better movie for it. Yes, I do harbor affection for this material, admittedly, but I feel like they were just breezing through a number of different elements here. For example, all of the tribulation Jonas went through for the ceremony where it is determined what his role will be? We’re past that in the first 13 minutes. I really feel like there are a number of different scenes that could have lengthened to punctuate his feelings of isolation even more. Even though you do get that this kid has the weight of the world on his shoulders, and it does still pack a bittersweet emotional punch, I still would love to see a director’s cut of this. As is, I would say it is well worth your time, even in its abbreviated state.
The Giver (2014) ****
– Critic for Hire
Want to see where this fell in my list of best films of the 2014? See for yourself here.