The Giver: An intriguing, haunting reminder of the indomitable human spirit — and of freedoms that could so easily be lost.
My husband and I saw The Giver earlier this week, and we agree that this film from Walden Media and The Weinstein Company is an excellently done, entertaining movie. The story is based on the book The Giver, a bestselling, Newberry award-winning, dystopian novel by Lois Lowry.
I have not read the book, so I entered into the story as someone knowing nothing about it, other than what appeared in the movie trailer. The story tells about a controlled society where everyone must conform in every way or be “released” (killed). Members of The Community take a daily dose of drugs to prevent negative emotions and help keep peace. Only one person, the Giver (Jeff Bridges), remembers how life was in the past. He must now pass on this wisdom to the chosen Receiver, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites). But as Jonas learns the truth about life, love, and the past, he must find the courage to make a life-or-death choice that will affect himself and everyone he loves.
I found the movie intriguing, and the questions it raised have haunted me all week. The Giver should provide a great catalyst for you to discuss important topics relating to life and faith with your teens and mature pre-teens.
- How much do we value the freedoms we have, especially the simple, everyday ones we take for granted – like choosing what to eat, what to wear, and even what to think?
- How much control should the leaders of a society or government be allowed to exercise over the people under them? How far can they actually go before it’s too late and freedom is lost?
- We’ve seen how insidious man’s inhumanity to man can be – for example, through Stalin, Hitler, and currently ISIS. What is the proper response from a civilized people? What should be the response from those of us who belong to Jesus Christ?
- When is war justifiable?
- Is a society like The Community even possible? Wouldn’t we still see man’s inherent sinful nature manifest itself in every individual?
- What would compel us to risk or even give up our lives for another?
- Which freedoms are most valuable, worth risking everything for?
In the movie, the leader of the Community (Meryl Streep) states, “When people have the freedom to choose, they choose wrong.” Yet as we see in Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), people often choose to do right. There is a quality in the human spirit – I believe it is the Imago Dei* – that makes us long for truth, justice, and love. This indomitable spirit often leads to acts of heroism, including the giving of one’s life for another. The display of this spirit through Jonas’s character is probably the best part of the film.
Be aware that this is not a Christian film, and yet Christian messages can be gleaned from the story. When The Giver depicts religion, it shows various religions and forms of worship. This may raise questions in your children’s minds about other faiths. Take this opportunity to discuss different belief systems with your children from a biblical perspective. Arm your children and grandchildren with the truth. Do it before they become intrigued with ideas that have an exotic appeal but lead only to spiritual blindness. A blindness as insidious as the black-and-white world portrayed in The Giver.
I recommend this movie. It’s good entertainment and provides ample opportunity for discussion. Apply biblical truth, and it’s a win-win.
*Latin for “image of God.” This refers to the fact that God created humans, both male and female, in His own image (Genesis 1:27). Thus, all humans have intrinsic value imparted by God, whatever their abilities, disabilities, functions, skin color, age, development, intelligence, social standing, gender, etc.
Jeanne Gowen Dennis