The Girl With All The Gifts delivers an inventive and unsettling twist on the saturated zombie genre, redefining our understanding of what it means to be human and monster.
Featuring a breakout performance from Sennia Nanua, this is a 2016 British post-apocalyptic film. It marries cerebral storytelling with visceral horror, challenging both the characters and audience to reconsider preconceived notions of morality, survival, and love.
After many, many years of zombie flicks, it takes something with real skill or a smart twist to make it worth taking note of a new entry.
Based on the book of the same name by Mike Carey and directed by Colm McCarthy, The Girl With All The Gifts is a superb zombie movie offering. Thankfully the generally low budget is masked with some great performances and heart-stopping set pieces.
What Is The Girl With All The Gifts About?
The general world is pretty familiar for the genre. Set in the near future, humanity has been all but wiped out by a fungal infection. Those infected by spores become mindless flesh-devouring killers dubbed ‘hungries’ (your ‘28 Days Later‘ fast-paced type, not the shuffling George Romero style). But we don’t start with this information.
Instead, we see Melanie (Sennia Nanua), a frightened child who is restrained, mistreated and feared. She is also, incidentally, held captive in a military base.
She is wheeled into a classroom with other bound children and so begins a tentative lesson. Except, these children are more than just frightened, they are also dangerous.
The movie spins your expectations once it reveals that the second generation children are also ‘hungries’. And yet somehow they have retained their intelligence.
Melanie's life takes a sudden turn when the facility is overrun and she escapes with a small group of survivors including her favourite teacher, Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton), and a sceptical sergeant, Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine).
As they journey to find a safer refuge, the complex relationships among them evolve. Helen begins to question the military's approach to dealing with the infected, while Sgt. Parks grapples with his prejudiced views against exceptional children like Melanie.
As they get closer to their destination, Melanie must make a choice that could either save or doom humanity forever.
The Girls With All The Gifts Official Trailer
Is The Girl With All The Gifts Worth Watching?
Nanua is superb in this role. She radiates barely concealed rebellion and yet shows fear when her lethal and feral side comes to the fore.
Supporting her is a well-rounded cast including Gemma Arterton, a teacher who tries to encourage the children’s humanity by teaching them about art and mythology. Glenn Close is a scientist who would much rather dissect the children to see how they can co-exist with the infection.
And Paddy Considine is a no-nonsense soldier who slowly becomes more and more protective of Melanie. The Girl With All The Gifts is hugely affecting because of the depth of characterisation and strength of its cast.
Although hungry hordes and gore do play a part in this movie, it is the thoughtfulness that will stay with you. Once the first setting inevitably falls, the fleeing survivors still shackle Melanie and strap a Hannibal Lector-style bite mask around her. But it isn’t long before she is free to roam around; helping the gang, but feeding on stray animals to stay her bloodlust.
More children arrive, operating like intelligent but lethal Lord Of The Flies pack hunters. And Carey’s script suggests that maybe the world is theirs now.
The film muses on whether humanity has had its time. Is what’s left worth saving, or is there an evolution of the species going on?
Most zombie movies end with the cast either dead or in some hopefully safe shelter. The Girl With All The Gifts takes a bolder step, toying with your sympathies towards the characters and how they shape the world around them.
If you like zombie movies, watch this movie. If you don’t, then there is so much good material going on here that you should still watch this film!
Words by Michael Record
The Girl With All The Gifts Where To Watch
For most people around the world, The Girl With All The Gifts is available on Amazon Prime Video.
Generally included in the subscription, there are exceptions where you will have to pay to rent or buy it.
The Girl With All The Gifts Movie Cast
Gemma Arterton as Helen Justineau, a teacher who teaches the infected hybrids
Paddy Considine as Sergeant Eddie Parks, the strict, no-nonsense head of security at the army base
Glenn Close (Crooked House) as Caroline Caldwell, a doctor trying to find a cure for the virus that has affected the human race
Sennia Nanua as Melanie, a special young girl who has the ability to suppress the hunger for human flesh to a certain degree
Fisayo Akinade as Private Kieran Gallagher, a soldier stationed at the base
Anamaria Marinca as Jean Selkirk
Anthony Welsh as Private Dillon, a soldiers at the base who manages to escape
Dominique Tipper as Private Devani
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