I am so sick of zombies. There’s rarely ones anymore that really stand out as a true work of art and less of a shallow genre exercise. Even ones that I enjoy like Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, Maggie or Cooties don’t stay with me and ultimately feel too disposable. I’m simply done with this tired, overdone genre.
So, believe me when I say The Girl with All the Gifts is great. Like, really, truly, genuinely great.
The film is based on the book of the same name, and is actually adapted for the screen by the author, Mike Carey, and is directed by Colm McCarthy. It’s about a world that is in the middle of a zombie apocalypse (they call them “hungries” in the film) and within a military base is a group of children who are infected, but still have a consciousness, they still behave human even though they can turn if human flesh is presented directly in their face. One of them goes by the name Melanie (Sennia Nanua) and she has a deep admiration for her teacher, Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton). However, after the base has been run over, the two are stuck with the hostile sergeant, Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine) and Dr. Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close), who is all about wanting to get at Melanie’s brain to create a vaccine that could potentially save the world.
Something that kept popping in my mind while I was watching the film was the video game, The Last of Us, which this film shares a lot of similarities to, thematically speaking. I say that as a compliment because the film in its own way delivers upon those same themes, but in a way that is genuinely fresh and exciting and resonant. In all honestly, it’s about as good as a Last of Us movie that we’ll ever get, and I don’t see the supposed film adaption of the game coming even close to topping this.
It’s hard to get into too much detail on The Girl with All the Gifts, not because there are mind blowing plot developments that I don’t want to spoil, but what makes a film like this work are the quiet moments, the little character beats and the emotional throughline that the film rides. This is where the film makes its biggest impact, and it doesn’t just come through big, dramatic strokes, it also achieves an understated profundity through levity. The film plays like a series of small moments, each building upon the last, and the payoff in the final moments of the film is provocative, bold and haunting. I won’t provide any context, but a line spoken by Melanie, “It’s not over, it’s just not yours anymore,” is a line that will be sure to stick in my mind for a long time after seeing the film. It’s honestly one of the most heaviest lines of dialogue in 2016, and you’ll understand what I mean once you see the film.
I honestly never thought I would love a zombie movie again, but here we are. The Girl with All the Gifts isn’t just a great genre film, it’s a great work of science fiction about generational conflict, about what is feels like for children to find themselves forced to deal with a world in which the adults have completely screwed them over. Though, for a film that will get unrelentingly grim at certain points, there’s a hopefulness to it that it doesn’t let go of. All of the thematic and emotional build up doesn’t come to a close until the very end, and while it may seem rather insignificant for most of the ride, it comes together in a way that is simply astonishing. Combining the excellent filmmaking with the out-of-this-world score by Cristobal Tapia de Veer and the astonishing performances from the cast, especially with newcomer, Sennia Nanua, The Girl with All the Gifts makes a strong case for a new classic with the genre. 90/100
Saban Films will be releasing The Girl with All the Gifts in the US sometime in 2017.