By Adam Ray Palmer
Today’s review is a little bit of a rarity on Cineroom. We don’t normally cover many horror/zombie flicks but The Girl with all the Gifts is a little different to the main.
Directed by Colm McCarthy (Peaky Blinders series 2) and adapted by the novel authored by Mike Carey, The Girl with all the Gifts stars Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close and Paddy Considine.
A packed Phoenix cinema screen awaited this film, pre-judging the movie to be just another zombie thriller. Maybe, just maybe, they would be wrong...
The Girl with all the Gifts follows a scientist (Glenn Close) and a teacher (Gemma Arterton) living in a dystopian future who reluctantly embark on a journey of survival with a special young girl named Melanie (Sennia Nanua).
The film begins with an establishing shot of a military-style camp where 20 children, who look a bit like 10-year-old Hannibal Lecters, are being taught by their kind teacher Helen Justineau (Arterton). We quickly learn that the 20 children are not ordinary humans, and have in fact been infected by a zombie like virus where they turn into ‘Hungrys’. Melanie (Nanua) is one of these children yet she seems so much more bright, articulate, and important.
Once the camp is raided by said Hungrys, Melanie, Helen and Glenn Close’s Dr. Caldwell must go on the run with the help of soldiers Sgt. Eddie Parks (Considine) and Kieran Gallagher (Fisayo Akinade, Cucumber). This is where the film can come alive as we see an original zombie flick merged with a story of hope, medicine and power.
The Girl with all the Gifts has a lot more going for it then the trailer or synopsis gives it. It’s definitely one of those films where if you read a review, it’ll make you want to go and see it. Regardless of the rating, I think it’ll have cinema-goers attention with the more political side of the movie. You are entertained for the duration but it’s also a bit of a thinker.
Immediately in the opening sequence we see guards wielding assault rifles around in front of what seem like friendly yet strapped up children. How dangerous can these children be with their cute little faces? It turns out very. In one scene, Sgt. Parks shows his bare forearm to one of the children and in a matter of seconds, more than 10 of the junior Hannibals are chomping at him like ravaging, slobbering dogs.
Then, once the breakout happens and they are on the run, we begin to learn more about the science behind it and the virus itself. An interesting technique in the writing, the author of the book also adapted the screenplay, is that he makes sure the audience is educated at the same time Melanie is. This is interesting because, without even knowing it, we automatically build up a rapport with Melanie because we are on the same journey as we learn alongside her even though we know full well she will eventually be a ‘Hungry’ and would eat us. You even sympathise with her for eating a cat at one point because she was famished. I thought to myself as she tucked into the guts “well, everyone’s got to eat I suppose” – crazy.
I enjoyed this film mainly because of the inclusion of Glenn Close’s character. We of course have the standard ‘extras’ that need killing off for a bit of entertainment but Close is different. She is positioned as a bit of a baddie but in reality, is she? She is only seen as a ‘villain’ because we begin a ‘forced’ friendship with Melanie due to the writing style so now we judge Dr. Caldwell. Caldwell wants to effectively cut up Melanie for scientific reasons as she holds a cure for the Hungrys and to stop the virus from spreading. Miss Justineau is on Melanie’s side and sees her as a young child that doesn’t deserve to die. This side-plot to all the killings and horror is perhaps the over-arching narrative. It also poses a question that who should decide someone’s fate? Why should Dr. Caldwell decide who dies? Who’s right is it that humans should rule earth and not the Hungrys? All so interesting! I don’t want to spoil the ending but I think it’s a great way to climax this issue, it’s Mike Carey’s response to present day authority struggles – no one should decide the future of others but only ourselves.
On the whole, The Girl with all the Gifts is a solid entrant into the ’28 Days Later’ club. These are films that fit into the horror genre but offer a different edge too. The acting on display is second to none, there isn’t a bad performance in the group. Young Sennia is captivating as the adventurous Melanie and really holds the viewers’ attention. This film deserves an audience and I hope it gets it. Blink, and you’ll miss a dystopian diamond.
Cineroom’s Rating: 4 Stars
The Girl with all the Gifts screened at the Phoenix Leicester. You can see more of what films they are showing here