Utopia, Free Will, and Love: A Review of The Giver

I watched a movie called The Giver yesterday. I enjoyed it! It is a beautiful movie. This review of the movie and the ideas presented in it contains spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want the storyline spoiled, please wait to read this post until after you’ve seen the movie.

The movie presents a future Utopian society that has flaws. While people don’t experience differences in any kind of negative way, they also don’t notice some positive differences. Everyone is truly equal, and they feel nothing that would disrupt the harmony of their communities. They fail to feel real love. Murder still exists, but people don’t understand what they are doing when they take a life. They built murder into the society to maintain equality by eliminating those who are different at birth, too old to contribute, or anyone who would disrupt their way of life. Naturally, people in their society are different in some ways, but those differences are considered acceptable; they make people more inclined to do this or that type of work within the society.

All stories have at least one conflict that must be resolved. Utopian societies are difficult to write for this reason. Why would there be conflict in a perfect world? The first Matrix movie briefly mentions and dismisses the idea of creating a utopia for humans because human minds could not accept such a concept. It freaked humanity out having everything be perfect, and they rebelled. I wonder if humanity can conceive of a Utopia wherein there are not inherent flaws that cause us to rebel against it and destroy it. Of all the stories I know, the original Star Trek has come the closest to making a workable Utopian society for humanity.

The Giver discusses how free will was removed from their society because humans always make the wrong choice. This is an old idea, which may have been first expressed in the Old Testament. It tells how God gives humans freedom of choice, but Eve makes the wrong choice when she breaks one of God’s rules. She convinces her mate Adam to break it as well. Their failure to make the correct choice – obey God’s rules – leads to the downfall of mankind. The movie suggests humanity has been making the wrong choices ever since.

Passion leads to sorrow. It was eliminated in the movie, as was love. Love overwhelms and causes us to do things we otherwise wouldn’t do. It makes us crazy, figuratively and sometimes literally. Yet we consider love to be the greatest emotion we can feel. We hold it up as what is best within ourselves. Again, this idea may have religious origins, as Christianity tells us God is love. Since God is perfect, then love also must be perfect. Is this emotion truly perfect, one that our frail mortal selves cannot properly wield?

Perhaps love is perfect, but in us it causes chaos that often leads us to destroy. After all, what would we not do for love? When one of the characters in this movie feels love for someone who is scheduled to die for being different, it creates the story’s conflict. He decides to resolve the matter by fleeing with the other character, destroying the utopian society, and restoring it to how we live now.

Does love become flawed in humans, or do we simply have to figure out how to express it without causing harm? When we are able to understand how to feel love in all its glory without letting it consume us, or lead us to jealousy, hate, and other negative feelings, then we might be able to create a true utopia – one without any conflict needing resolution; one that does not need to be destroyed for humanity to be its true self.

We haven’t figured out how to express love perfectly yet. We are not perfect creatures, so we assume this is beyond us. Love may be the only perfect thing in our world. It transforms us, for better or worse. Passion is a positive offshoot of that feeling. We lose ourselves in our passions, like music or art, allowing it to overtake our sense of self and elevate us to a state of ecstasy. Humans cannot live like this 24/7 though. We would die if we remained in that altered state of mental bliss. We are mortal, and passion makes us forget that. Likewise, love drives us to live as intensely as possible. It would consume us, if we let it.

However, what if this premise is wrong? What if love is not perfect? Is it logical to think anything can be perfect in this world? Our modern society pushes the idea that love is the best emotion we can feel, the best within us, and all for which we should strive. What if it isn’t? Is it perfection, or is love the true fatal flaw that creates all our worldly sorrows? What if it is the very thing that is wrong with us? We lose ourselves in love, but it is when we are most focused on ourselves at the same time. It is all about us: our wants, our needs, and what we desire most. It is the best and worst of us at the same time.

The society in the movie rejects love as a source of division and destruction. It states you cannot have love without hate; one side cannot exist without the other. I don’t know if this is the right view to take of love, but it is certainly an interesting idea. Is love the only thing that makes life worth living? Are there other things equal to or more important than love? Would humanity as a whole be happier without love and all the negatives that go with it, like jealousy, envy, desire, and hate? What would a perfect society look like, really? Can we ever make a utopian society work? Is it possible to rid the world of hate, yet somehow retain love?

It’s a thought-provoking movie, and one I’d recommend seeing. If you’ve seen it, what are your thoughts on the movie? If you haven’t, what are your thoughts on this review of the ideas presented in the movie?

The Giver


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