Stories where youthful protagonists rebel against “the system” and fight the “power” tend to resonate strongly with young people, so it’s no surprise that most novels aimed at young adults and/or teenagers often provide some direct variation on this premise. One such book is The Giver, which Lois Lowry won the Newberry Medal for writing back in 1994 (the novel was published a year earlier) and has since become a mainstay of middle-school reading lists.
In truth, Lowry’s source novel largely functions as an allegory for how underage people learn to deal with the complicated emotional realities of life, but it still has the same “reject the established order” subtext as its peers – albeit, minus the totalitarian governments featured in modern YA titles like The Hunger Games and Divergent. However, it sounds like the upcoming Giver movie adaptation will tinker with the original book’s narrative/themes, in order to make the story feel more timely for the post-millennial age.
The Giver revolves around Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), a teen who lives in a society where all emotions and individuality is heavily regulated – and thus, life seems perfect and painless for everyone. Things change when Jonas begins his journey to adulthood and is assigned to become the next “Receiver of Memory” – a wise man who keeps all the memories of history (painful and joyful alike) from before the era of “Sameness” – under the guidance of his predecessor: a man who calls himself The Giver, as played in the film by Jeff Bridges (who has been working to adapt Lowry’s novel to the big screen for some two decades now).
Check out the first images of Bridges and Thwaites in The Giver, below (courtesy of EW):
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Joining Bridges in the adult cast is fellow Oscar-winner Meryl Streep as the Chief Elder; judging by the new article from EW, it sounds as though Streep’s character has been promoted to the role of central antagonist in the film (in the source novel, the character is pretty minor). Bridges made sure to keep Lowry in the loop during pre-production on The Giver, and claims that the author “wasn’t so concerned about all the facts being the same as in the book [since] the spirit of the story is there.”
Those deviations from the source material include making Jonas a 16-year old instead of 13, which could work out for the better if The Giver movie adaptation is geared more towards a young adult audience than middle-school crowd (which is most likely the plan). Thwaites is looking to breakout with his performance as Jonas after he plays a small role in Disney’s Maleficent this year, but the film also has recognizable faces like Alexander Skarsgård, Katie Holmes and Taylor Swift (plus the aforementioned Oscar-winners) as cast members, to sell the movie ahead of time.
As far as writing and direction goes: relative newcomer Michael Mitnick is credited for the script, while The Giver is being realized as a cinematic experience under the guiding hand of Phillip Noyce – a filmmaker who generally specializes in cerebral, if pulpy, action movies like Clear and Present Danger, The Bone Collector and Salt. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle the material; a fairly restrained approach would be nice, though something more conventional (like a dystopia genre melodrama) might be more realistic.
The Giver opens in U.S. theaters on August 15th, 2014.