Movie Review: The Giver

the giver posterI just got back from seeing The Giver. (You’re reading this on Thursday, but I’m writing this on Wednesday.) Did I like the movie? Did it more or less follow the story of the original book?


I’m still trying to figure how I feel about this movie.

Why don’t I write this review in list format? That sounds like a good idea, because my thoughts are all jumbled together.

Warning: Spoilers ahead, particularly if you haven’t read the book!

Things I Loved

  • The design (of clothes, of the dwellings, of the community as a whole, et cetera) was very accurate to the book
  • Fiona looks, I kid you not, exactly as I imagined
  • The mindless obedience and unfeelingness of the community members was quite chilling, just as it should be
  • The beginning of the film WAS shot in black and white, which was a nice divergence from most other modern movies
  • The end credits song, “Ordinary Human” by OneRepublic, was very pretty
  • The film score, composed by Marco Beltrami, was gorgeous – along with two songs called “Color” and “Desert Ride,” this is my favorite piece:

Things I Found Both Cool and Irritating

  • Rosemary’s scene with the Giver was incredibly sweet but, in my opinion, far too brief – and I felt like her big reveal as the Giver’s daughter wasn’t given enough emotional weight
  • Jonas’ transition from seeing in black and white to seeing in color was neat, but would have been more stunning had it not happened so quickly – I would’ve liked to see the colors slowly appear, one by one, rather than RED and then later ALL THE REST AT ONCE
  • A memory of the Vietnam war was selected for Jonas’ first experience of pain, and it worked well enough, but I would’ve preferred the broken-leg-sled incident from the book – it was so surprising to read, because at first the readers and Jonas think it’s that same good memory, but then it twists
  • Jonas narrated at points scattered throughout the movie, and I’ve always found those voiceovers irritating – but the book was told exclusively from his point of view, so how else were moviegoers to know how he felt?
  • The release-of-a-newchild scene hit all its marks visually, but I thought it had little emotional impact compared to that same scene in the book

Things I Did Not Like

  • There were quite a few pointless changes – Fiona was assigned to work with newchildren rather than the old and Asher was a pilot rather than a recreation director because… because the filmmakers that would be cool, I guess?
  • A lot of the memories were just sappy feel-good things – there weren’t enough ordinary or even sad memories, in my opinion
  • The sharing-of-feelings scene was very short, and there was no dreamtelling scene – in fact, in the movie’s world no one has dreams except for Jonas and the Giver
  • I wanted to see more of the ceremony – I’ve long wondered what occurred during the age ceremonies that Lois Lowry didn’t describe and I hoped that the filmmakers would make up something cool, but they didn’t
  • The pacing oftentimes felt rushed – why make your movie only ninety minutes long if it results in everything being crammed in?
  • The romantic relationship between Jonas and Fiona was really unnecessary – not all dystopians need a story of forbidden love, and it’s inconsistent with Fiona’s character for her to quit injections in order to experience feelings of young looooooove [Insert mushiness here]
  • I wanted to see more interaction between Jonas and the Giver
  • In the book, the Elders don’t even know about history or memories or feelings; in the movie, they have knowingly withheld this information from the community’s residents
  • Expanding upon my previous comment: I found the book’s version of events much more chilling because these are supposed to be the community’s foremost leaders and they don’t even KNOW anything important
  • It was never explained how an invisible wall can prevent memories from reaching the community, although I suppose it could be magical – in the book, the method by which the Giver transmits memories to Jonas is more magical than scientific, so…
  • The ending of the story was not left as ambiguous as I would’ve liked – to me, that was one of the most memorable and thought-provoking aspects of the book, because we didn’t know whether Jonas and Gabe had lived or died

[Scrolls back up through her lists] Hmmm. I seem to have more complaints than praise.

So what’s my final verdict on the movie? Well… it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. If the whole thing had been as messed-up as the trailer, I would’ve given it one out of five stars.

But I think it deserves slightly better than that. As I wrote above, everything looks as it the givershould. Visually, there’s practically nothing wrong with the movie, which is a nice change from all the other book-to-movie adaptations that don’t even attempt to follow the original stories’ descriptions.

But it doesn’t feel right. As I wrote several times above, emotions are lacking in this film. Sure, Jonas doesn’t feel much of anything when the story begins, but gradually he does. And in the book, his story makes us feel, too.

With the movie, I’m left wondering if the filmmakers are as emotionless as the residents of the community, because they completely failed to address any of the deeper issues mentioned in the book. The Giver‘s film adaptation has unnecessary action scenes and romantic interludes and… nothing that really made me think.

The book was deep, especially for a children’s story. The movie is NOT. It was neither as thought-provoking nor as chilling as the book was. I can deal with some changes in a book-to-movie adaptation, but not this one: The realization that Jonas and the Giver are the only ones who really know anything is a HUGELY important part of the book, and I’m disappointed that it was missing from the movie.

Cinematographically, this film is beautiful. And it has a nice film score. But I can’t find much else to like about it, which is a shame. If you want a really good dystopian story, read the book instead.

Rating: 3/5

About nevillegirl

Elizabeth. University of Iowa class of 2019. Triple majoring in English & Creative Writing, Journalism, and Gender, Women's, & Sexuality Studies. Twenty-one-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, aspiring writer, and lesbian. Passionate about feminism, mental health, comic books, and cats.
This entry was posted in Books and Reading!, Nevillegirl's Adventures!, Non-Neville Posts, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Movie Review: The Giver

  1. F says:

    Coincidentally, I was just debating whether to read The Giver or just watch the movie (my TBR list is just so long that I have to forget about getting to some things…), but after this review I will most likely be reading the book..

    – F

    P. S. Would you be interested in doing a button swap with Teenage-Blogger-Central?

    • nevillegirl says:

      I highly recommend the book. 😛 It made me think so much, and it’s an EXTREMELY quick read – only around 200 pages, I believe?

      Oh, sure! I actually meant to put the TBC banner on my blog, but I guess I forgot about it… thanks!

  2. Bonnie says:

    I just read it last night for the first time since I learned how to properly read dystopias. I loved it!! I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I’m planning to. I’m going to read the book as many times as I can within a short amount of time so I can be properly critical of the movie. 😀

  3. Cait says:

    Oh dang. I’m actually looking forward to this movie. I mean, I still am, because I usually aren’t too harsh on movies. but I actually thought you reviewed it really fairly! I LOVE YOUR REVIEW STYLE. For books. Movies. Whatever. I just feel like you’re always so fair and logical. 😉 *ahem* Okay, okay…so I’m disappointed it’s not as emotionally impacting. That’s what I want in a movie. Like in Catching Fire when you literally can’t breathe at the end. THAT’S what I want when a book gets adapted into a movie.

  4. thelonglifeofalifelongfangirl says:

    I saw the film trailer first, and was a little sceptical, but then I read the book and I was just drawn into it so quickly. About halfway through it, I watched the trailer again, and was so unimpressed with it – having now finished the book, I’m still debating on whether or not it’s worth it to see the film, because I thoroughly enjoyed the book in the end.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Yeah… the book is really well written, and the plot is well organized, and… the movie basically destroyed that. The movie’s story doesn’t make as much sense as the book’s. 😦

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