Currently on Amazon Prime, The Girl With All the Gifts is a 2016 film directed by Colm McCarthy (Peaky Blinders). Starring newcomer Sennia Nanua as Melanie, the cast includes Glenn Close, Gemma Arterton (Hansel and Gretel,) and Paddy Considine (The Bourne Ultimatum).
The Girl with All the Gifts is a zombie movie.
This one concerns a fiercely intelligent little girl who happens to be a zombie. Written by Mike Carey (Peaky Blinders) from his book with the same title, and like 28 Days, it is set in England.
What sets this movie apart from others in this genre is its point of view.
Rather than a story focused on the struggle of survivors to find safety, it is about an awakening and self-acceptance, a story about letting go and the willingness to change.
As Melanie, Sennia Nanua is a standout. Her performance alone is a reason to see this film.
Nine-year-old Melanie’s room is a jail cell in a research facility. Each morning, before the soldiers come, she hides her only possession, a picture on a greeting card from the world before the “hungries” came. As she waits in her wheelchair, she places her hands where they can bind them. Before the soldiers wheel her to school, she greets each one with a cheery “hello.” They ignore her efforts to connect.
Melanie joins a class of twenty-five or so. Like Melanie, each student is restrained.
As the children sit quietly, Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton) begins the lesson. A bright student, Melanie loves Miss Justineau who is fond of her. When Miss Justineau touches Melanie’s shoulder, Sergeant Parks knows it’s a dangerous gesture. To make his point, Parks approaches another student and bares his (Park’s) arm. The student clicks his teeth together rapidly, triggering the same reaction in all the children except Melanie, who stops herself.
Melanie learns why the soldiers fear her.
She and the others are like the hungries who roam outside the compound. She also knows that classmates who enter Dr. Caldwell’s lab never leave it. Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close) is convinced she’s close to a cure, something to fight the fungus that destroys memories and turns its victim into a killer. She dissects the brains of her subjects. Despite Miss Justineau’s protests, Melanie is her next subject.
Unlike other hungries, these children can think and experience emotions.
But they are still killers. Caldwell prepares her instruments while Melanie is strapped to an exam table, As Miss Justineau tries to save her, marauders, intent on stealing food and supplies, drive hungries into the compound. When the men break into the lab, Dr. Caldwell is injured.
Melanie saves Miss Justineau by killing the man attacking her.
Sinking her teeth into him, she has her first honest-to-goodness zombie meal. Determined to protect her teacher and knowing that her zombie tummy is full, Melanie guides Miss Justineau to safety. Dr. Caldwell follows them. Sergeant Parks and few other soldiers are in a truck and leaving but they stop to pick up Justineau and Caldwell. Melanie wears a muzzle and rides on the truck’s roof.
As they search for safety, she wins the trust of Parks by outwitting the hungries and finding ways around them.
Using walkie-talkies, Melanie and Parks scout for safe passages. In the city, the group finds that many hungries are changing. The fungus inside has now broken out of their bodies resulting in huge stalks and pods.
If the pods break open, warns Dr. Caldwell, the human race is finished.
They find a research lab, a place that offers safety but no food. Breathing a sigh of relief, the dying Dr. Caldwell sees all the equipment. It’s clear that she’s guessing what size head clamp Melanie wears.
Roaming the street and noshing on the occasional feral cat, Melanie looks for supplies.
In the process, she makes a discovery when the last soldier dies, leaving only Parks to protect Miss Justineau. The hungries that killed and ate the soldier are children. And like Melanie, they can think. Unlike Melanie, they are feral. Within the lab, Miss Justineau waits for Melanie’s return as Dr. Caldwell plots Melanie’s dissection.
After neutralizing Dr. Caldwell, Melanie makes a decision.
When her decision leads to the unintended death of Parks, she grieves. Can she protect Miss Justineau? The Girl With All the Gifts ends with Melanie turning a corner in this new world, where teachers are valued. If I were teaching, I’d love to have a student like Melanie, but first I’d hide my cats.
Below is the trailer for The Girl With All the Gifts:
Featured image via: “The Girl With All the Gifts” Facebook