The Girl with All the Gifts came very recommended by a coworker with similar tastes in films. He thought this would a film I would like since he feels it’s an interesting take on the tradition zombie film. Which is something I do agree with, though I don’t hold in the same kind of regard as he does. The Girl with All the Gifts feels like its trying to get me to like by being as much like other zombie stories that are popular. The Fungus, and the Carol character being the most egregious.
In the somewhat near future, Melani (Sennia Nanua) a young girl is kept prisoner. She’s taken from her cell to a classroom in a wheelchair in which she’s restrained for as long as she’s out of her cell. Other children are also brought to class this way. The classes are taught by Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton), who teaches with kindness and compassion. At night Melani is quizzed by Dr. Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close), who asks various logic problems. One night she’s asked to pick a number between 0 and twenty and Melani choose thirteen. The following day the boy from room thirteen is missing. The next time she’s asked for a number she chooses number four, her cell. Sgt. Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine) takes Melani across the base to Dr. Caldwells facility. During which scene we learn that the wold is infested with zombies, which are literally at their gates. As it turns out a fungal infection as turned most of the world into “Hungries”. Only some children are left with the ability to think and learn and its from these children that Dr. Caldwell is trying to find a vaccine. Unfortunately, this requires the brain and spine, Melani’s brain and spine to me be precise. But before Dr. Caldwell can start, Helen shows up and tries to save Melani. But, Dr. Caldwell maces Helen and calls for security to take her away. Dr. Caldwell gets disrupted again when the base is overtaken by the Hungries quickly after. Melani manages to escape, and since she’s already infected the Hungries don’t attack her. Melani attacks and kills two soldiers in order to save Helen. The pair escape the overrun base with Sgt. Parks, Kieran Gallagher (Fisayo Akinade), Dillon (Anthony Welsh) and Dr. Caldwell. With their base in ruins the group make their way to London, keeping Melani safe since she’s their best chance for a cure…
Honestly, there’s only a few things with this film that bother me from one degree to another. Mainly my issue is with Dr. Caldwell, who comes off as a bad rip-off Carol from The Walking Dead. Both in appearance and in the characters delivery. It’s just so blatant that is becomes obtrusive. Next is the fungus, as I feel the same idea was visited in the video game The Last of Us and was told much better. Finally the shallowness of the characters bothered me. None of the characters have much going on beyond the job that defines them. Dr. Caldwell is a doctor, Helen a teacher and Sgt. Parks is a soldier. Which leads to some cardboard style characters.
What I did like. First off, was the slow lead in. As Meleni being infected isn’t directly shown quickly. First you get to see how shes treated and left to wonder about this little girl. Humanizing her in a way that makes the moral dilemma of the film feel more grounded in reality.
Second, I love the setting and locals. I’m a big fan of the Nature taking it back look to post apocalyptic horror films. Not that I don’t love me some dessert wasteland, it’s just not my favorite. The dilapidated look lets you know on a gut level about how much time has actually passed. Reinforcing the sense of hopelessness shared by the characters.
I love the way that this film asks questions. Is Melani a monster? What do her actions say about her? Who’s the most at fault? This leave a lot of moral grey areas to talk about with your friends. Which is nice since many horror films don’t evoke that level of higher thought.
Final thoughts, this is a film best viewed in a group as a group is need to discuss just what The Girl with All the Gifts was trying to get at. It has a lot of substance for a film with such shallow characters and so few. The Girl with All the Gifts is most certainly worth the watch, a zombie film that keeps the gore while not letting itself be dumbed down. 8/10