The Girl with All the Gifts may very well be the beginning of a new kind of zombie movie – and we’re totally on board with that!
The Girl with All the Gifts grabs its audience from the very first scene and refuses to let go. The story is off to a very powerful start, but not in the usual zombie style with blood and violence. Oh no, it goes straight for your soft spots.
We’re introduced to the main character, Melanie, who is the sweetest girl ever. She is – very literally – absolutely brilliant and just full of kindness. She tries to be as gentle and friendly as possible in hopes of the tiniest amount of recognition and human contact.
Unfortunately, she’s almost entirely met with cold distance and a very cynical world of grown-ups. That’s the case for all the kids in The Girl with All the Gifts. You really can’t help but feel their pain, but even more so for Melanie. She’s clearly more in touch with what’s going on and really craves some human emotion and interaction.
The problem: Melanie has a latent zombie virus, which means everyone who’s survived the zombie apocalypse avoid her like the plague.
The importance of humanity
Because she encounters so little tenderness, she loves one person with all her heart. It’s the only person, who treats these kids like ordinary children. And again, this goes for all the kids. They’re given basic education every day from a few teachers, but the second they hear her voice, all the children smile and sit up a little straighter. No small feat, since they’re all strapped to wheelchairs by their ankles, wrists, and head.
Anyone who has a dog will recognize this behavior as unconditional love. And yes, I realize comparing these kids to dogs is very crude. But trust me, in the world portrayed, the dogs are treated much better than the kids.
Fantastic performances from a brilliant cast
We don’t follow many characters in this movie, but all the actors portraying these few characters are absolutely amazing. Besides the aforementioned Glenn Close, we have Paddy Considine (Dead Man’s Shoes) as another important supporting character.
Gemma Arterton (The Voices) plays the kind and loving teacher, who wins over all the kids. Still, despite her “kindness”, she’s got nerves of steel and is ready to do whatever it takes for them to survive. She just believes it’s important to have some humanity for it all to matter. What’s the point of fighting to save the human race, if we act like the zombies? Gemma Arterton really is the perfect actor for this particular role. Not least thanks to the amazing chemistry she has with Sennia Nanua, who portrays young Melanie.
Love in a world of zombies
The bond between these two characters is so amazing! In that regard, The Girl with All the Gifts is a beautiful love story. These two will do anything to keep the other safe. The adult wants to protect the sweet and innocent child, while the child sees the adult as her saint and savior. It’s their faith and love for one another because they recognize each other as human beings – despite one of them having the zombie virus. Obviously, this is not without challenges. Still, when you’re losing everything, then having something still worth fighting for is paramount.
A few years ago, another young girl was nominated for an Academy Award (Quvenzhané Wallis for her role in Beasts of the Southern Wild), and I feel Sennia Nanua’s performance is at least as good. Horror movies do have a tendency to bring out the best in kids – like Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense. And honestly, I would’ve done anything to protect little Melanie as well. Then again, I’m probably a lot like Gemma Arterton’s character, so that should come as no surprise to anyone.
You haven’t seen this before
I should know better than to compare new titles with iconic classics, which is why I won’t. The Girl with All the Gifts is very much its own movie in every way. I do, however, want to say that this is a whole new kind of zombie movie. As such, it reminds me of 28 Days Later, which also gave us a new kind of zombie movie. One where our own humanity is at the heart of the story. Also, we saw zombies moving and behaving differently than we’d seen before.
The Girl with All the Gifts was directed by Colm McCarthy, who’s directed a lot of amazing TV shows in the past – i.e. Doctor Who and Ripper Street. He’s done an amazing job with this one as well. And that’s not just my opinion since he’s already won awards for it. Including one at Austin Fantastic Fest. This movie is beyond amazing. And don’t worry, there’s plenty of blood, violence, and zombies to balance out the softer values in the movie. It’s a perfect contrast.
The movie is based on a book by Mike Carey, and he also wrote the script for it. I haven’t read the book myself, but I definitely plan on doing so now!
The Girl with All the Gifts is still playing at film festivals all over the world. However, it has also begun wide theatrical releases in Europe and Asia. No official US release date yet, but hopefully it will be out in theaters before being released on VOD and Blu-ray. And if it’s playing at a film festival near you, then don’t miss it!
Director: Colm McCarthy
Writer: Mike Carey
Cast: Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close, Paddy Considine, Sennia Nanua
A scientist and a teacher living in a dystopian future embark on a journey of survival with a special young girl named Melanie.