The Girl With All The Gifts

2016 – UK

Director – Colm McCarthy

Starring – Gemma Arterton, Sennia Nanua, Glenn Close, Paddy Considine, Fisayo Akinade

Words – Joe H.

This British zombie film is an adaptation of the book of the same name  – written for the screen by its author and comic book writer, Mike Carey.

We open to a scene of a girl in a concrete cell, where after an alarm call she is restrained at gun point and taken by armed guards to a hall full of children treated in equal condition.
The children are being taught in a special class by teacher Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton), where despite the warm feelings she shows towards her students, it is unclear why the children are taught in restraints – then a chilling moment of clarity with Sergeant Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine) makes it clear that these are no ordinary children, who as it turns are also being studied by scientist Dr Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close).

The young girl named Melanie (Sennia Nanua) sets herself apart from the others in her class, and it’s during her selection by Dr Caldwell where we find that they are not only within an army base, but that the base begins to fall when it’s overrun by “hungries”.
As this small group escape and embark on a course towards a safe haven, it emerges that Melanie may be the key to ending the struggle humanity faces, with their journey becoming more than just about their own survival.

On its passage the film uses each of its central characters to explore some moral and social themes – with Justineau as the teacher who sees Melanie as human, Caldwell the scientist who views her as a specimen, and Parks being the soldier who sees her as the enemy but has his opinion changed as Melanie experiences the outside world.
With a cast of Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close and Paddy Considine there wouldn’t be anything other than solid performances here, but it’s Sennia Nanua who shines through, as her part draws in the characters around her (and the audience) into a place where the reality of both the end of humanity and its survival around this child is blurred, being hidden behind the innocence of a young girl.

There’s some fantastic work on display in respect to the visually striking post-apocalyptic environment in the fallen city of London – emphasising the almost insurmountable odds our small group of characters face, fuelled only by hope, having to make their way through this devastated landscape.
A brilliant musical score fantastically accentuates scenes of tension, delivering a real sense of uneasiness in its pairing with such bleak moments.

This is a smart film that does something interesting and new with the perhaps well-worn Zombie genre.