(Phillip Noyce, 2014)
The Giver has lots of big ideas. Based upon Lois Lowry's seminal novel, it tries to spin that story in a post Hunger Games world with mixed results. Beginning in a future-world literally devoid of colour, it borrows a trick from Gary Ross' superior Pleasantville by having colour slowly bleed into the film scene by scene as Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) learns about beauty, emotion, violence and love.
Jonas has been chosen as the Receiver, the only one in this perfect future community who is fit to take on any knowledge of the past. As such he has daily sessions with the Giver (Jeff Bridges) who somehow psychically exposes him to memories, images and sensations of the past world, most of which play out as random streams of over-slick advertising imagery.
As for the rest of his black and white world, here people take a daily injection to kill emotion, are constantly polite and apologetic, and have no knowledge of art, music or love. Jonas' parents insist he use 'precision of language" while his father (Alexander Sarsgârd) is a sort of midwife-paediatrician who is also responsible for killing the babies deemed unfit for life in the community (releasing them to elsewhere is the euphemism preferred). A Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) watches carefully that nobody disturbs their fragile equilibrium, but of course Jonas begins to, falling in love with his friend, curious about the possibility of universal memory and whatever lies beyond the border.
The big themes touched on here remain just that - touched on. The Giver never explores them, never speculates what the world might really be like if people lived a life beneath them.
Noyce's direction is elegant and somewhat anonymous, as are many of the performances. This is a film of half-measures.