Note: Spoiler alert
I hardly see any movies, but we went to see The Giver and I was pleasantly surprised. It was family friendly and life affirming. An overview via The Giver | Movie Review | Plugged In:
Imagine a place nearly free of all pain and suffering, where people are truly equal and everyone gets along. Imagine a place where hatred does not exist, where minds are not clouded by confusion or suffering, where the sun always shines and no one ever lies.
Jonas actually lives in such a world. He’s never known anything but. If there was ever another way, lost as it is in the folds of distant time, it’s best that it’s forgotten.
Well, forgotten by most.
Jonas dutifully bikes to the current Receiver of Memory’s house, built at the edge of the known world—quite literally on a cliff that plummets down into who-knows-what. He walks in and sees walls full of what the Receiver calls “books.” For the first time in his life, Jonas is encouraged to ask questions. And then, when the older Receiver—now called the Giver—clasps Jonas’ arms, the boy collects his first memory …
… of snow, fluttering and cold. Of a green fir-forested hillside wrapped in white powder. Of a sled careening down. Of wind-whipped hair and thudding heart and laughter and—
The memory ends. Jonas is back in his safe and serene, black-and-white world. But he’s been given his first glimpse into something that was lost, something both beautiful and terrifying that was banished so long ago.
. . .
Specifically, at the core of this story and at the core of the Community is the issue of euthanasia. Few seem to understand that “releasing” people (from the elderly to the not-quite-perfect babies) to the so-called Elsewhere is actually killing them. . .
Religion is among the many things eradicated in the Community, and when Jonas is receiving memories, he sees depictions of unfamiliar expressions of worship: a Christian infant baptism, Muslims bowing to Mecca, paper lanterns rising into the sky as part of an Eastern religious ceremony. And when he rides the sled in his first new memory, he slides toward a picturesque cabin where we hear people singing “Silent Night.”
. . .
I kinda feel for the founders of Jonas’ Community. Their intent, after all, was to create a grand and enjoyable utopia, not a devastatingly grayscale version of an Orwellian dystopia—a land so drained of real life that the world itself has lost its color. They just wanted to live someplace nice. They felt the same frustration that we do when we look at this fallen world of ours. They saw too much brutality. Too much hatred. Too much instability. With every generation, we find new ways to hurt each other and the world we live in. Every day, we find new ways to hurt ourselves.
The Giver believes that if humanity’s given another chance, we could do better. We could make better choices. But the Chief Elder isn’t so sure.
“When people have the freedom to choose, they choose wrong,” she says. “Every single time.”
She’s right more often than not, of course. We do choose wrong. We, as individuals and as a society, almost always choose wrong. It’s in our nature, a nature that’s overwhelmed with sin.
. . .
There’s no foul language in it. No sex scenes. No crude jokes. No gratuitous drug abuse. Hints of youthful attraction and snippets of violence are both restrained in their depictions and used fully in the service of the larger story and moral lesson.The Giver is a challenging film, to be sure. It deals with life, liberty, free will … and euthanasia, after all. But it never once wavers in its responsibility to escort moviegoers onto solid moral ground, to give them loads of positive material to think about and talk through afterwards.
The film focused more on euthanasia than infanticide, but you couldn’t miss the pro-life themes. I understand that Meryl Streep is pro-choice, so I was surprised to see such life-affirming themes with her in the film. Perhaps she doesn’t realize how the anti-euthanasia and anti-infanticide themes would apply to the unborn as well?
The approach of the leaders reminded me of Communism (Theme: Hey, once we kill the tens of millions of people who disagree with us, things will be great!). They identified a problem (people sin) but came up with a solution that made things even worse. Sure, things were better in their world, as long as you stop considering infanticide, euthanasia, drugging people daily, etc. to be wrong.
I loved how it ended with Jonas coming upon a house with people singing Silent Night. I think Christian films could learn from this. They often suffer from stilted Gospel presentations, where they might have done better to do something more subtle, natural and artistic.
I also like how the Jeff Bridges character brought back the concept of love, then noted that with love come faith and hope (yes, that’s right out of 1 Corinthians 13).
If you are a movie-goer I encourage you to go see this.