Dystopian young adult film 'The Giver' pits love over violence

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 15, 2014 12:28 PM

By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A world where pain and mankind's memories are erased along with war, violence and prejudice may seem like utopia, but ignorance is not always bliss, as explored in the latest young adult film.

"The Giver," in U.S. theaters on Friday and based on Lois Lowry's novel, explores a futuristic society cultivated and controlled by Elders, whose leader is played by three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep ("The Iron Lady").

The Elders have formed an efficient working society but erased any color, music and frivolity. At 17, the teenagers of the society graduate from school and are assigned a place in the workforce according to their personality traits.

Jonas, played by rising actor Brenton Thwaites ("Maleficent"), is chosen as the Receiver of Memories, a singular job that leads him to The Giver, the man who holds all the memories of humankind's past - from wars and death to the beauty of nature and love.

As Jonas learns more about the world before his, he realizes that not everything is perfect within his own society and its selection process from birth, and he begins to question it.

"It's very reflective of our times," said Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart"), who plays The Giver. "We live in a society that's swept up by technology and our ethics haven't really caught up with us, and it's time to slow down a bit and think about what we're willing to pay for our comfort and happiness."

The Weinstein Co's "The Giver" comes on the heels of dystopian young adult film franchises such as "The Hunger Games" and "Divergent," but offers one key difference to the genre.

"This movie has no violence in it. Some of these other dystopian books and films have had a great deal of troubling violence to me, children killing other children," said Lowry. "I can't write that myself and I'm glad it's not in this film."

Much of the film is filtered in gray to depict that the society's inhabitants do not perceive color, but as Jonas learns more about the past, he notices glimpses of vibrant hues in his surroundings and starts to feel more emotions.

"The hardest part was making these moments real. I've experienced these things before - I've seen color all my life, I've experienced love and a little bit of pain," Thwaites said.

One of the biggest deviations from the book was the decision to raise the children's graduation age from the cusp of entering their teen years to 17, which director Phillip Noyce ("Salt") said was in keeping with the age for graduation in schools around the world.

"I think the themes of this book are powerful, and the tagline is 'search for truth and find freedom,'" said actress Katie Holmes ("Batman Begins"), who plays Jonas' mother. "Human beings have been drawn to stories like that forever."

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; editing by Patricia Reaney and Gunna Dickson)