Film & TV Reviews



This month’s book club pick is Lois Lawry‘s 1993 novel The Giver. In 2014 a film adaptation directed by Phillip Noyce (The Bone Collector, Rabbit Proof Fence, Salt) was released 21 years after the novel’s initial release.

It was a long journey for the story to come to the screen. Actor Jeff Bridges (The Giver) co-produced the film with producer Nikki Silver and manager Neil Koenigsberg. Bridges has had a 20 year long interest in the project. His original intention was to direct his father Lloyd Bridges, in the role of The Giver. The success of The Hunger Games and Divergent film adaptations paved the way for The Giver to come to screen. Unfortunately the success of these other dystopian young adult films make The Giver look like a recycled version of these many films. It really is a pity this film came a decade too late.

Jeff Bridges (The Giver) and Brenton Thwaites (Jonas)
Jeff Bridges (The Giver) and Brenton Thwaites (Jonas)

Australian actor Brenton Thwaites was cast as the protagonist Jonas. In the novel Jonas is twelve; in the film he is sixteen. This is probably a wise decision as an older actor will be able to work longer hours than a child actor, have more experience and ability in playing the role and a teenage actor will also have more appeal to the target teen audience. Also having Jonas being sixteen also means the film can explore Jonas’s first love with friend and classmate Fiona (Odeya Rush).

Brenton Thwaites (Jonas) and Odeya Rush (Fiona)
Brenton Thwaites (Jonas) and Odeya Rush (Fiona)

Meryl Streep plays the film’s antagonist role of the Chief Elder. This role has been extended from what is in the novel most likely to showcase Streep’s talents and use her star profile. It is a similar case of singer Taylor Swift being cast as Rosemary, the previous Receiver of Memory. Rosemary is quite a small part in the book but in the film has been fleshed out more in the film with several flashbacks.

Meryl Streep (Chief Elder) and Jeff Bridges (The Giver)
Meryl Streep (Chief Elder) and Jeff Bridges (The Giver)

The character Asher (Cameron Monaghan) in the novel was the slightly goofy, happy-go-lucky comic relief and best friend to Jonas. In the film the character is changed to a much more brooding, serious teen. This is to give the film more conflict but personally I miss the Asher of the novel.

Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgård, Emma Tremblay round out the supporting cast as Jonas’ mother, father and younger sister.

Cameron Monaghan (Asher), Odeya Rush (Fiona) and Brenton Thwaites (Jonas)
Cameron Monaghan (Asher), Odeya Rush (Fiona) and Brenton Thwaites (Jonas)

The film remains largely faithful to the themes of the book although many details of the book have been changed for film, which may disappoint some fans of the book.

By Graeme Cash

Film, television, theatre, popular media culture, ya fiction, travel...pretty much my life. Based in Bay of Plenty, New Zealand

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