THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS (USA | UK/15A/111mins)
Directed by Colm McCarthy. Starring Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, Glenn Close, Sennia Nanua, Dominique Tipper
THE PLOT: In a dystopian future, Melanie (Sennia Nanua) knows no other life than being feared by adults, even as they teach her, and experiment with her. When the secure base she lives on is overrun by Hungries, she, her teacher Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton), scientist Dr Caldwell (Glenn Close) and soldiers Sgt Parks (Paddy Considine) and Kieran (Fisayo Akinade) set out on a journey for survival, even as Melanie knows she is not like those around her.
THE VERDICT: Based on the novel of the same name by M.R. Carey, ‘The Girl With All The Gifts’ takes its name from Greek myth; specifically tale of Pandora who found hope at the bottom of the box of evil she released into the world.
The cast of ‘The Girl With All The Gifts’ is a strong one, and although it falls to young Sennia Nanua to carry the film, she does well in her dual role as the polite but curious Melanie, as well as fleshing out the darker side of the character. Gemma Arterton makes Miss Justineau caring but fearful, Glenn Close – as always – is a force to be reckoned with as the frighteningly businesslike Dr Caldwell, and Paddy Considine makes Sgt Parks a man with little time for sentimentality, a man with survival on the brain.
Written for the screen by author M.R. Carey, ‘The Girl With All The Gifts’ feels a little like the Saoirse Ronan film ‘How I Live Now’, crossed with zombie flick ‘Warm Bodies’. Although the mindless, flesh eating “zombies” in the film are referred to, rather cutely, as Hungries, and they are not the end point of the fungus that made them such, ‘The Girl With All The Gifts’ starts off as something fresh and different, and has moments of greatness throughout the film, but it still ends up in a familiar place, with our merry band of survivors facing a terrible choice.
‘The Girl With All The Gifts’ is the second feature length outing from director Colm McCarthy, although he is perhaps best known for his TV work, which includes ‘Sherlock’, ‘Peaky Blinders’ and ‘Doctor Who’. With ‘The Girl With All The Gifts’, McCarthy plays up the mystery element of the film incredibly well, but as soon as questions begin to be answered, the film runs out of steam. The performances are incredibly strong, but struggle under a running time that feels drawn out, making every scene feel overly long and familiar. As well as this, there is some product placement in the film that is jarring and, although it seems to be used to give the film the feel that this is our world, still ends up feeling very out of place.
In all, ‘The Girl With All The Gifts’ starts off well as a mystery flick, where children are suddenly to be feared and restrained. As the running time drags on however, the film runs out of energy and, although the performances are excellent, these are not enough to make up for a drawn out film that starts off somewhere new, but ends in a familiar place.
RATING: 3/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    Now here’s something different. The Girl With All The Gifts is an atypical British horror film that defies genre expectations and instead makes its own bite on the well-eaten zombie sub-genre.

    In a dystopian, possibly post-Brexit (!) Britain the end of days is near. Some time has passed since a mass outbreak of a deadly virus which has infected millions, turning them into flesh-craving zombies. In a military research base in the countryside, Melanie (Sennia Nanua) is a young girl who is locked up and kept under very close, cautious supervision by Sergeant Parks (Paddy Considine) and scientists Helen (Gemma Arterton) and Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close). Melanie has formed an attachment to Helen, but Parks warns her to be careful. Melanie isn’t the only child locked up here and all is not what it seems. These children are ‘hungries’ when prompted, but unlike their counterparts outside the security perimeter, they can talk and have emotions. When the hungries break into the base, Melanie flees with the trio to survive in the world outside. The key to solving this virus may lie within Melanie herself, The Girl With All The Gifts…

    Adapted by Mike Carey from his novel, The Girl With All The Gifts marks the second feature of Scottish-born director Colm McCarthy. His debut, the little-seen werewolf effort Outcast, was gritty and grimy but showed definite potential. It’s taken six years to build upon that, but McCarthy has delivered something special for his sophomore effort. The film bears obvious parallels with the well-regarded 28 Days / Weeks Later, given the usage of the now-standard ‘turbo zombies’. A scene early on involving a closing shutter makes this point very well. However, McCarthy tries hard to distance his film from those earlier films. It makes its own distinctive mark, with a deserted, overgrown London as a strong visual backdrop.

    The strength of the film is in the idea of a hungries evolution. In this story, zombies don’t just stagger around and eventually die due to lack of remaining humans to eat. They grow and evolve into something else. The plot is slowly teased out through the eyes of Melanie, a girl who seems both savage, sweet and coolly intelligent by turns. In her feature debut, newcomer Nanua impresses greatly as the title character. A quality supporting cast of familiar players give her plenty of meat to chew on (literally). The last shot is at first surprising, but on second thoughts makes perfect sense. This is a survival story told from two very different sides of the fence. The Girl With All The Gifts is eerie and distinctive enough to warrant a hearty recommendation from this horror fanatic. ****

  • emerb

    “The Girl With All The Gifts” is brought to us by Scottish born TV director Colm McCarthy and it’s a smart, compelling and stylish zombie movie where the central character is a seemingly innocent young girl. Adapted by Mike Carey from his own 2014 novel, the film falls into the dystopian young adult genre, a genre which has always appealed to me. Kudos to the director for successfully developing and maintaining a taut atmosphere throughout, as a small group of characters attempt to survive in a world which is being overrun by an unknown and dangerous species.

    We are mysteriously introduced to a number of uniformed children in an underground military bunker. They live singly in empty cells and are locked into wheelchairs and headgear for transportation to class. We focus on one particular girl, Melanie (Sennia Nanua) who looks harmless. She smiles sweetly, speaks politely to the Guards and is a star pupil. While she may look innocent, she is not. She is part of a group of children who have been infected with an organ-eating virus which has devastated mankind. They are called “hungries”. However, these children are not traditional zombies. They have thoughts and feelings and they are still intellectually and emotionally capable of going about
    their day. The problem is that as soon as they smell human blood, the children
    transform into chattering little monsters eager to be fed. They attend school with the kindly and sensitive Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton) but she finds herself
    getting too close to them and Melanie in particular. When she is caught rubbing her head, Sgt Parks (Paddy Considine) wants to remind her of what she is up against so he spits on his arms and rubs it. They all watch in horror as one little boy starts snarling and growling and trying to break free, driven into a frenzy by the smell. The humans must protect themselves by wearing “blocker gel”. Meanwhile, stern scientist Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close) is trying to find a vaccine by studying the children’s immunity. She believes they hold the key to a cure for the virus, which is transmitted by blood and saliva and wants to dissect Melanie. When hordes of crazed Hungries attack the facility, the surviving humans escape in a military vehicle and make their way towards a fortified headquarters called Beacon. With Melanie strapped to the roof and swarms of zombies at every turn,
    the journey does not look promising.

    As Melanie, newcomer Sennia Nanua is astonishingly mature for a young actress in her first feature film role. She delivers an excellent performance, managing to evoke our sympathy but yet our terror throughout. As the film progresses, she develops a sense of individuality and starts to take control. This sets the stage for a dramatic and unexpected climactic finale which raises some complex moral
    questions about the role of humans in society. If Melanie’s organs can save the world, should she be put to death? Is she a monster or a person,after all she still has emotions and ideas? There are other good performances too. Arterton is well cast as the gentle and caring Miss Justineau while Paddy Considine convinces as Parks, who distrusts Melanie but slowly grows to rely on her cunning and bravery. I thought Glenn Close was somewhat underused. She is the tough as nails Dr. Caldwell, the scientist who believes Melanie holds to key to finding a cure to the disease that turns people into “hungries”, a role which I thought deserved more fleshing out. I really enjoyed the originality of this atmospheric survival thriller. It delivers on many levels – plenty of scares, a decent cast with an impressive central performance and a number of clever images (such as hordes of zombies asleep while standing up). The film cleverly imagines a completely alternative universe with superb visual effects and production design. The abandoned and vast London landscape is particularly captivating and the pounding soundtrack creates a constant sense of threat and unease. Not everybody will be happy with the dramatic ending but I thought it was well done. There’s no sugarcoating here and the bleak worldview is taken right through to its grim conclusion – certainly gets you thinking.