Film Review: “The Girl with All the Gifts”

Starring: Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close and Sennia Nanua
Directed By: Colm McCarthy
Rated: R
Running Time: 111 minutes
Saban Films

Our Score: 4 out of 5 Stars

If it bites like a zombie, moves like a zombie, and growls like a zombie, it’s probably a zombie. That’s not the case though in “The Girl with All the Gifts.” Their zombies haven’t necessarily died and become reanimated monsters that crave human flesh and/or brains. Instead, a fungal infection is the culprit behind the mindless, violent masses stalking this post-apocalyptic world. The spores sprout and creep into the brain, like a vine weaving its way into a home’s foundation, causing a human to lose their mental prowess and become monotonous cannibals.

While the sight of a human would usually send a stereotypical film zombie into a tizzy, the zombies in “The Girl with All the Gifts” only react to scent and sound. Also in this dystopian future, where the last remaining humans have stowed away in heavily guarded forts, there’s a third, hybrid group that co-exists. It’s made up of second-generation children, born from a human turned zombie. They’re almost like a bridge between the two, exhibiting human emotions and intellect, but excited to sink their teeth into flesh and organs at a moment’s notice.

The elementary and middle-school aged children keep their inhibitions in check, but just the mere whiff of someone’s stench sends them chomping at flesh, snarling at people and attempting to escape their restraints. The most intelligent and articulate of the group is Melanie (Nanua). She’s also the best at keeping her animalistic urges in check while her entire class acts like starved sharks when a drop of blood hits the water.

Most everyone at the military base, whether its army men with assault rifles, apprehensive school teachers or scientists, is petrified of the children; except two people. Miss Helen (Arterton) sees humanity’s salvation in them. While Miss Helen may pine for the days before the apocalypse, she thinks that these kids are more than just a potential cure, but have true value in shaping the future of the world. Dr. Caldwell (Close) on the other hand picks the brains of the children, literally and intellectually.

“The Girl with All the Gifts” is based on a book of the same, where the writer most likely stole a few pages out of “The Walking Dead” playbook, incorporating emotion, character study, and morality into the zombie genre. Video gamers will get more of a Deja vu feeling as the fungal infection and foliage rich cities feel reminiscent of the PlayStation 3 game, “The Last of Us.” Despite some of the clear and possible influences, “The Girl with All the Gifts” avoids a lot of cliché pitfalls and is a solid addition to the zombie genre that’s been struggling to find anything fresh lately

Even with the star power of Glenn Close, the movie is led by the heartfelt, yet terrifying, performance of a 12-year-old actress. Sennia Nanua counterbalances the dire outlook in “The Girl With all the Gifts” with a curious coming-of-age story. If Melanie didn’t have dried blood on her lips and face half the time, she could be the Katniss of the zombie world. Melanie faces a lot of stark realizations about the real world as the movie progresses. Her adolescent transformation is quick, nuanced and captivating.

Melanie’s fresh grasp of the world, past, present and future, is integral, but it’s her relationships with Miss Helen and Dr. Caldwell that set-up a profound third act. It takes a while to get to the crux of it because the story meanders, but during that downtime, there are some solid moments. It’s there we find out about how the human mind and spirit can overcome carnal urges. It helps the audience better understand the painfully tragic choices we have to make when reality stares us down in the face.

The outcome will most likely be viewed as grim, but it’s important to keep in mind the lessons that Melanie picks up along the way. It’s interesting to watch a genre, generally rich with fear and cynicism, find a more impactful message about humanity’s selfish existence and fear of nature. “The Girl with All the Gifts” adds some intelligence to the brain dead genre by being more sensitive and curious about the human story developing on screen than it is with making the audience jump in their seats.

Speak Your Mind

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *