Story

The Giver is a science fiction movie based on a young adult novel.

The movie is set in the year 2048. After a large-scale war has occurred, the scarred community has decided to remove all emotions, colours and concepts of love to protect itself from future harm. All citizens have had their memories wiped. Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is 18 years old and is the only person with memories because the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) has named him the Receiver of Memory. Jonas gets these memories from the previous Receiver, who has now become The Giver (Jeff Bridges). Jonas uses the memories to advise the Elders, who make decisions for the community.

Jonas’s father brings home a young baby named Gabe. Jonas begins to share memories with Gabe, who also has the mark of a potential Receiver of Memory on his wrist. In time, Jonas and the Giver decide that the only way to revive the community is to give people back their memories. Jonas kidnaps Gabe and goes on the run as guards attempt to capture him.

Themes

Mind control; totalitarian authority; relationships

Violence

The Giver has some violence. For example:

  • Two teenagers get into a fight and punch each other in the face.
  • A baby is euthanised. The movie also includes details of injections that are used to euthanise people every day. The euthanised baby is put into a box and thrown down a garbage chute.
  • The Giver gives Jonas a war-based memory in which a man is shot and killed (blood is shown).
  • A stranger jumps out of a tree to attack Jonas, who then shoots him.
  • The movie shows an execution via lethal injection.
  • Guards use stun guns to immobilise people who resist authority, so that they can take the people away.
  • Two hunters shoot an elephant, which falls to the ground and dies.

Content that may disturb children

Under 8
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, The Giver has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under eight years. For example:

  • Jonas steals a motor scooter and carries Gabe in its front carrier. When the battery dies, Jonas must walk and carry Gabe through the desert and into snow- covered mountains. Both are exhausted. They have bleeding and cracked lips from the cold wind.
  • People are put into trances and told to hold onto internal pain and not express it. The trances cause pain to the people, and they offer information and visual memories.

From 8-13
Children in this age group might also be disturbed by the scenes described above.

Over 13
Younger children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above.

Sexual references

The Giver has mild sexual references. For example, the Elders discuss how love leads to sex, which leads to murder and death. The Elders therefore believe that emotions are negative and the word ‘love’ is banished.

People of all ages are not allowed to touch anyone who is not a member of their direct nuclear family. They are not allowed to hug or kiss their family either. People in relationships are not permitted to have sex, and how pregnancies occur isn’t explained.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

The Giver shows lethal injections used for euthanasia and execution throughout.

Nudity and sexual activity

The Giver has mild sexual activity, including when a young couple share a kiss. The girl is nervous and walks away after asking, ‘What was that?’ The boy later dreams that he kisses her again after a wedding.

Product placement

None of concern

Coarse language

The Giver contains mild coarse language and name-calling, as well as religious exclamations.

Ideas to discuss with your children

The Giver is a futuristic movie about the degradation of humanity in the search for utopia. It’s also about the damage that can happen when communities have the technological capacity to change emotional states and memories. It highlights the importance of individual thought and independence, as well as the significance of learning from past experience and historical events. Relationships are presented as necessary and positive additions to a balanced life, whether they are based primarily on friendship or on sexual intimacy and romance.

The movie is based on young adult fiction with themes and disturbing scenes that make it unsuitable for most children under 15 years, although younger children might have read the book.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include:

  • knowing when to stand up to authority figures, and when to break society’s rules
  • being inquisitive and questioning society and its moral code
  • relying on your friends, and letting them help you when you need it.