The Giver (2 stars)

The Giver

Disappointing adaptation of Lois Lowry's YA novel with Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges

The pile of unwanted, underwhelming young-adult adaptations is rising. From The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones to The Host via Ender’s Game, the search for another Twilight or The Hunger Games has ransacked the bookshelves of many literate teens. Lois Lowry’s The Giver has a better pedigree than most; Jeff Bridges has been trying to get this project before the camera since it was published in 1993, and rewards himself with the central role of the Giver, the collective memory of a futuristic community who gathers his thoughts amongst a library of books.

The recipient of the Giver's wisdom is Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), a teenager who belongs to a brave and bland new world in which sheep-like individuals wear the same clothes, think the same way and live in docile Communities where all differences between denizens have been erased by a thought-killing injection. As Receiver of Memories, Jonas gains a new and mind-blowing understanding of the potential of human life (both its positives and negatives) that sets him apart from his fellow beings. His progress as a revolutionary is blocked by the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) and from within his own family unit: his mother (Katie Holmes) is a Department of Justice official with a lack of ideas of her own.

Veteran director Phillip Noyce shoots the initial scenes in black and white to indicate the lack of feeling in the Communities. It’s a bold move, but once the colour returns to the picture, The Giver doesn’t spring to life, despite good work from Bridges and Streep's hissable villainess. By adding spurious action and making the characters older than in the novel, the makers of The Giver sell-out the story; a project which prizes individuality shouldn’t so slavishly adhere to the Divergent-school of teenage drama.

General release from Fri 19 Sep.

The Giver - Official Trailer - The Weinstein Company

The Giver

  • 2 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 1h 37min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Phillip Noyce
  • Cast: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep
  • UK release: 19 September 2014

In a bland, conformist future, one person – the Giver (Bridges) – retains the collective memory of a time before conformity, and it's time for a replacement (Thwaites). Despite good work from Bridges and Streep, it's odd that a story which prizes individuality should make for such a formulaic teen movie.