Even by the standards of most ‘zombie’ films, The Girl With All The Gifts presents a very grim picture of a dystopic future that appears to offer little in the way of optimism…
At a secure location staffed by army personnel, a group of children are carefully strapped into wheelchairs by gunpoint and wheeled into a classroom staffed by Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton).
Meanwhile, the world at large is besieged by a fungal-infection that turns people into mindless flesh-eating monsters known as ‘hungries’. The children are carriers of the same disease but can apparently function normally. Hope lies in crafting a vaccine from the children, which is where Glenn Close’s character Dr Caldwell comes into play. Elsewhere, Paddy Considine enforces a strict military hand in his role as Sgt Parks.
Melanie, played by Sennia Nanua, appears to be one of the more brighter kids in the class. Her impeccable manners appear to be completely at odds with the situation she’s in, particularly while wishing a cheery “good morning” to a solider with a gun aimed at her head as she’s strapped in for her daily class.
The film’s drama bounces between each of these characters as events overtake them and they’re forced to take to the road. Caldwell’s approach to obtaining a cure is chillingly practical and she eyes up Melanie as her star specimen. Meanwhile, Parks considers all of the children as potential monsters. The only joyful presence is Justineau who has a bond with Melanie that offers a few bright moments as the plot unfolds.
There’s a lot of smart ideas dropped into this bleak film, including the notion that the fungal infection that’s taken grip of the kids is merely mimicking human behaviour. Meanwhile, the ‘hungries’ are effectively chilling – even in the moments where they appear to be in an unsettling sleep mode.
There’s certainly quite a few nods to pop culture classics here, including Day Of The Dead, 28 Days Later, I Am Legend and the video game The Last Of Us. There’s also a few neat ‘bait and switch’ moments where you think a scene is going to play to typical horror tropes, but then goes another way.
The music by Chilean composer Cristobal Tapia de Veer conveys a very strange surreal atmosphere. Equally, the cast is on strong form and there’s some surprisingly effective visuals (some scenes were constructed after viewing drone footage of Pripyat, the town struck by the Chernobyl disaster).
Inevitably, Melanie’s unique ‘gift’ gives the small group an advantage as they wander through a ruined city. As the film draws to its surprising ending, there’s a curious message of hope even if it doesn’t quite arrive at the finish that you’d expect.
The Girl With All The Gifts is available to stream via Amazon and other outlets.