While it suffers from being as sterile as the repressive, politically correct dystopia it presents, there is just enough thematic meat on the bones of this film to recommend it.
The Giver is a straightforward Man Versus State tale adapted from the YA dystopian SF novel of the same name. It’s a little bland and toothless, but the idea of allowing individuals the freedom to choose over the enforced alleged morality of a collection of oligarchs remains relevant.
In the opening sequence, we’re presented the Community; a world of perfect equality. In the wake of some unnamed global catastrophe, the Elders have created a world free from conflict by eliminating free choice and indoctrinating total obedience and servitude.
The Community plausibly extrapolates a bone chilling vision of contemporary leftist puritanism, politically correct speech policing, quasi-religious insistence on penitence and self-abnegation, and total faith in government to enforce moral choices.
Every aspect of life is carefully managed and no one takes an action that isn’t authorized by the Elders. Jobs are chosen by leaders in a state sponsored ceremony when kids reach a certain age. Curfews, mood moderating medication, and public behavior rules are mandated. People greet one another with an apology. History books are purged of references to the past. Emotional directness is met with reproach.
It’s contemporary social justice groupthink taken to its logical conclusion and naturally, it’s a total fucking nightmare. This cultish deference to government is the film’s most redeeming feature and hopefully scares the bejeezus out of the young minds watching it.
The plot centers around Jonah and his selection as Receiver of Memories. He’s given freedom to break the rules and learn about the past from The Giver played by Jeff Bridges. There’s a love interest and some torn loyalties, a self righteous, authoritarian asshole played by Meryl Streep and a race to dismantle a control system. Standard stuff.
There’s nothing in this story that’s truly original, but if this serves as a means by which young minds get turned on by the idea of liberty, then I’ll take it.