At the heart of any dystopian story - be it about warring farm animals, omnipresent elder siblings, or colorless societies wherein pain and inequality have been all but eradicated - there is meant to be something human. Something that shines through to show us just how close we are to the world onscreen and just how far away from it we need to get. But at the heart of The Giver - Phillip Noyce's film adaptation, not Lois Lowry's '93 intro-to-Orwell novel - we find no humanity. There is nothing remotely vital about the film, its themes, its world, or its characters. Thus, who really gives a damn what kind of hell they're all dealing with?
Brenton Thwaites is our hero - the exception among the heap of mindless drones (not to be confused with the movie's surplus of literal drones) that occupy the nameless society, or so we're meant to believe. In truth, Thwaites and his character Jonas are just as flat, vacant, and devoid of nuance as every other member of this pallid world. So when he is selected as the only villager capable of bearing the world's memories of joy, pain, life, suffering, and - most prominently - ethnic dancing, we're bored to tears by what might otherwise be an emotionally riveting journey into emotional maturity.
But Thwaites isn't the only issue. Jeff Bridges manages some combination of tired Sam Elliott, tired Bane, and tired Scooby Doo in his performance as the titular Giver, the man whose relationships with the society, Chief Elder Meryl Streep, and Receivers past and present are never illustrated with enough clarity to understand him as a man or a metaphorical function. Just like Thwaites' big moments suffer from a lack of substantial precedent, any message that Bridges' character is meant to unfurl falls as flat as the inflection of a dystopian resident.
Broad strokes are one thing; The Giver seems to miss the canvas entirely in its portrait of the importance of pain and experience. Without a single human moment to convince us of the importance of humanity, we're really left just staring at a confusing oscillation of the color wheel for 90 minutes.