The Girl with All the Gifts, 2016.
Directed by Colm McCarthy.
Starring Sennia Nanua, Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine and Glenn Close.
A scientist and a teacher living in a dystopian future embark on a journey of survival with a special young girl named Melanie.
To say that the zombie genre has become saturated with dull and predictable films is an understatement. Since the explosion of The Walking Dead the genre has become tired and audiences needed something innovative to make us remember why this genre of film is so important. The Girl with all the Gifts is that game changer we need. It is sublime film making from start to finish and is one of the most unique and thrilling zombie thrillers to grace the screens.
The film opens with our heroine Melanie (a terrific breakout performance for Sennia Nanua), a sweet and bright young girl; seemingly in some sort of prison she gets into a wheelchair, straps her legs and arms in and waits. Two army privates enter with their guns trained on her. They strap her in and wheel her out into a long hallway. As she gets wheeled along more and more children emerge; they’re placed in a classroom where they beg to hear stories of mythology and more. This off kilter beginning only makes the reveal of the children’s nature more shocking. They are all in fact infected with some type of fungus that has decimated the human population. Able to control themselves, the children are test subjects for a vaccine that Dr Coldwell (Close) is trying to create. After their compound is breached, Melanie, Coldwell, psycologist/teacher Helen Justineau (Arterton) and army man Sgt Parks (Considine) set off on a perilous journey to find another base.
What makes The Girl with all the Gifts such a brilliant viewing experience is that its story is not overly complicated and it delivers intense violence and thrills whilst also exploring the nature of humanity and childhood. Beautifully filmed by Colm McCarthy and cinematographer Simon Dennis the violence feels graceful and the sense of wonderment that Melanie feels about exploring the world is demonstrated in every frame. There are stunning shots of deserted London and the BT tower has been turned into a plant/human tree. This should be horrifying but it actually appears quite beautiful on screen and the level of detail should be marvelled at. This is why The Girl with all the Gifts is not your average zombie horror, there’s depth and bigger questions being asked. We don’t see how the outbreak started, we see the aftermath and the new generation of humanity coming to the forefront.
One of the elements that stands out throughout the whole film is the score. Cristobal Tapia de Veer’s score is unsettling, emotional and bizarre in places. Using human voices and distorting them to make a theremin type sound his score works on so many different levels.
The performances are top notch as well. Arterton who I’m not usually a fan of, is effective as the psychologist/teacher Justineau. She sees the subjects as real children and her empathy and love for Melanie drives the story forward. Paddy Considine delivers as the gruff Sgt Parks who starts to soften. Glenn Close is on top form as scientist Dr Coldwell. She’s desperate to create a cure and her ability to dissect children without the blink of an eye is chilling – yet at no point does she feel like a villain.
Relying on a child to carry this film required perfect casting and Sennia Nanua delivers. Each part of Melanie’s personality is well rounded and thought through. From her feral violent nature to the sweet hearted schoolgirl and the almost comatose animal she becomes after she feeds; Nanua provides depth and sympathy for Melanie. She is a talent to watch and her multi-layered performance is a sure sign of great things to come.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★