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Film / The Giver

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The Giver is a 2014 science fiction film directed by Phillip Noyce. It is an adaptation of Lois Lowry's bestselling young adult novel of the same name, starring Brenton Thwaites as Jonas, Meryl Streep as the Chief Elder, Jeff Bridges as The Giver, Odeya Rush as Fiona, and Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgård as Jonas's parents.

In the future, humanity has managed to eliminate all warfare, pain, illness, and suffering and has created a perfect society ruled by the nearly-omniscient Elders — but at the cost of removing any disruptive memories from the collective consciousness. Instead, these memories are passed on to the Receiver of Memory, whose job is to advise the Elders on any matter beyond their experience. When eighteen-year-old Jonas is chosen to become the next Receiver of Memory and unearths the secrets of Sameness under the watchful eye of his mentor, the current Receiver (called "Giver" by Jonas), the two of them conspire to change their society forever.

Tropes unique to the film:

  • Actionized Adaptation: In the book Jonas's escape from the Community, while hastily-planned, went off without much incident. The film adaptation had him be discovered and added action sequences of him having to quickly escape with Gabriel, Fiona covering for him, and Asher searching for him with a drone plane.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: The blue eyes linked to seeing beyond are not mentioned in the film, and the indicator is instead a Birthmark of Destiny. Although Taylor Swift and the babies who play Gabe retain their paler eyes, Jonas has brown eyes instead of blue.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The film mentions The Ruin, although that wouldn't be discussed in the books until Gathering Blue. The mechanism on how Jonas's memories are shared with the community when he leaves is handwaved as being a technological force field he has to pass to release the memories, where in the book, it just happens with no real explanation.
  • Advertised Extra: Taylor Swift was heavily advertised as Rosemary, a Posthumous Character who appears in perhaps three scenes.
  • Adaptational Heroism: In the book, Fiona and Asher stay brainwashed, and have no such redemption that they do in the movie. Fiona is of special note, who is freed from her brainwashing before she can be trained to "release" people, whereas in the book the Giver reveals that she has already started releasing people, and is quite good at it too.
  • Adaptational Job Change: Fiona's job was changed from Caretaker of the Old to Nurturer, while Asher's was changed from "Assistant Director of Recreation" to that of a drone pilot. This allows them to play roles in Jonas's escape.
  • Adaptational Villainy: The Community itself, most prominently the Chief Elder. In the book, the community and elders lived in genuine ignorance of suffering and hardship, but it seemed like a pure - if amoral - system free of corruption, with the Giver and later Jonas truly being the only two who knew about things like love and colors. In the film, there are many pieces of evidence fairly early on that certain higher ups are perfectly aware of the way the world was before and seem to be aware that they are committing heinous acts (including attacking and imprisoning The Giver; a thing that would never have happened in the books as he was a revered figure).
  • After the End: Ambiguous in the book (but stated in the sequels), the film confirms the fact that "The Giver" takes place after a tragedy known as "The Ruin."
  • Age Lift: Jonas, Fiona, Asher, and their classmates were eleven going on twelve in the book (the "graduation to adulthood" ceremony is called the Ceremony of Twelve), but have been aged up to eighteen for the movie.
  • Ascended Extra: The Chief Elder of the Community is a minor character in the book, but is bumped up to be the Big Bad (as the representation of the totalitarian authority) here. To a lesser extent, Asher and Fiona have far more to do in the film than they have in the book.
  • Birthmark of Destiny: Here the ability to "see beyond" seems to be linked to a spot-shaped birthmark on one's wrist, as opposed to the book where it was indicated by pale blue eyes.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Jonas and Fiona are this in the film, due to the latter having been Promoted to Love Interest from her role in the book—there's even a montage shown in pictures of how close they'd been since children before they start making out.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Because humanity has lost the ability to see color, the first part of the film is initially in black and white, save for splashes of color when Jonas "sees beyond." The film switches back to black and white when Jonas leaves the Community.
  • Dramatic Drop: At the climax, when the memories are returned to the community, Jonas' father lets go of the injection machine just as he is about to administer a lethal injection and it slowly rotates back toward the wall.
  • The Evils of Free Will: The basis of the Community's philosophy, which the Chief Elder makes clear near the ending.
    Chief Elder: When people have the power to choose, they choose wrong. Every single time.
  • The Film of the Book: It's an adaptation of Lois Lowry's young adult novel of the same name.
  • Floating Continent: The Communities are suspended on a floating landmass. The Giver's residence is close to the edge.
  • Freudian Excuse: It's implied that Rosemary was also the Chief Elder's daughter, showing why her loss drove her to be obstinate and controlling.
    • Rosemary was also the Giver's biological daughter, implying that he and Chief Eldress were or are married.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Part of the Chief Elder's dialogue to The Giver at the end of the film is that free will is problematic because of this:
    Chief Elder: You have seen children starve. You've seen people stand on each other's necks just for the view. You know what it feels like when men blow each other up. Over a simple line in the sand...Love is just passion that can turn. We can do better. It turns into contempt and murder. We could choose better. People are weak. People are selfish. When people have the freedom to choose, they choose wrong. Every single time.
  • Humans Are Flawed: All emotions have been evolved out of humanity in order for it to overcome the flaws that get in the way of a smooth utopia, and from a totalitarian standpoint it works.
  • Humans Are Special: As Jonas and the Giver show the Community, emotions are what make life worth it and are part of what make us special.
  • I Shall Return: Jonas promises that he'd return to the Community and Fiona.note 
  • Last Fertile Region: A recurring symbol of life outside the Community is a tree glimpsed through the Giver's window. Jonas follows this to Elsewhere, which, while barren in places, flourishes much more than the areas within the Communities.
  • Living Is More than Surviving: Jonas eventually concludes that the emotions brought about by the memories may be linked to humanity's flaws, but having them is far more fulfilling than a completely sterile existence in the ruthlessly efficient Community.
  • Monochrome Casting: Literally, in that everything is black and white before Jonas begins to see color. But as there is no mention, aside from one of his memories of anyone with non-white skin. All of the names are Western, mostly Biblical, except Yoshiko, who Father mentions in passing. All of the main characters in the movie are also white.
  • Monochrome to Color: The first part of the film is Deliberately Monochrome. When Jonas is given the memory of color red tones begin to show (as his first color was red). By the time he regains more memories the film is in full color. When he leaves the Community it is once again shot in black and white until Jonas manages to return the memories, at which point it's shot in color again.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Unlike in the book, the film actually shows what happens when Jonas manages to return the memories to the Community-overcome by the implications of their actions, several of the characters start crying out in shock. This includes Jonas's father who realizes that he had been committing institutionalized murder with each Release all along.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The film skips almost all of the set-up chapters of the book to focus more on Jonas' relationship with the Giver. Several jobs, details, and titles are also shuffled around (Fiona was a Caretaker of the Old in the book, but a Nurturer in the film, for instance). Hearing beyond is also introduced much earlier, and Jonas is able to listen to music before leaving. Jonas is also much older - he was twelve in the book, and the way the Giver "Gave" memories would not fly today if they could cast an actor who was twelve. note 
  • Promoted to Love Interest: In the book, Fiona is a good friend of Jonas's whom he eventually drifts apart from, although he's definitely interested in her. In the film he manages to convince her to stop taking the injections and she realizes she loves him as well. She eventually aids in his escape and he promises her he'd come back for her.
  • Splash of Color: As in the book, Fiona's red hair is this at first, standing out in a black-and-white society to Jonas, one of two people who can see color.
  • Theme-and-Variations Soundtrack: Once the Giver starts playing the piano, that tune dominates the score.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer spoils basically every last surprise in the book. People don't see colors any more? 'Release' is just a euphemism for execution? The mandatory shots dull emotions? The Community is just a big dystopia? Boom. All spoiled. Basically the only thing not spoiled is Jonas' relationship with Gabe.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: Jonas, Asher, and Fiona's dynamic is like this before things go down. The disruption of their friendship brought about by their conflicting responsibilities is even lampshaded by Fiona, when she snidely throws a "Friends forever, right?" at Asher when the latter reports Jonas's attempted escape. Eventually, Asher aids in his escape as well.
  • Virtual Ghost: Rosemary, the former receiver who chose a "Release", is seen posthumously as a memory hologram teaching the Giver how to play piano.
  • War Is Hell: One of the memories Jonas receives by accident, as The Giver transmitted it to him by mistake during a PTSD flashback is of The Vietnam War (in the original novel it's never stated which war, but the description of the uniforms implies that it was of the American Civil War).
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Repeatedly discussed that there are no words to describe love, a feeling that's totally alien to the Community. In one scene where Jonas and Fiona are kissing on security footage, an elder questions what they were doing.