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Review: "The Girl with All the Gifts" (2016)


Title: The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)

Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller

Director: Colm McCarthy

Stars (Primary Actors): Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close, Paddy Considine, Sennia Nanua

Bias: This film's screenplay, and the novel it is based on, were both written by Mike Carey, who also wrote two of my all-time favorite comic book series for Vertigo Comics, The Unwritten and Lucifer. I went into the film expecting to enjoy it due to the Carey influence, even though I generally feel a bit exhausted with zombie flicks.

Grade: A-

In a Nutshell: A fungal disease has infected humankind, turning nearly everyone into violent, unthinking 'hungries'. The very few survivors left are holed up in military bases, where scientists experiment on a group of hybrid children who seem to hold the key to a cure. Although these children do possess the same violent, flesh-eating tendencies as the 'hungries,' they are also capable of speech and higher brain functions. One hybrid child, Melanie (Sennia Nanua) is exceptionally empathic and intelligent, earning the admiration of her teacher, Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton). When 'hungries' break through the fence and begin attacking, Melanie, Miss Justineau, Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close), and a handful of soldiers are able to escape. While traveling to the next closest base, the group - and Melanie especially - are forced to confront a world ravaged and some very difficult decisions about how to survive, if survival is even possible.

The Critique: As I mentioned, I've felt burnt out on zombie movies recently. This movie didn't necessarily change that, but it is one shining example of the possibilities of the genre at its best. The conceptualization of the zombie plague as being a fungal infection is an interesting turn, especially when it is revealed late in the film that the fungus is capable of evolving into a seed-bearing plant that could potentially cause the virus to become airborne. Even more importantly, the characters are fleshed out (no pun intended). Melanie, Dr. Caldwell, Miss Justineau, and even Sergeant Parks, who at first seems like an unrepentant bad guy, are written with depth and complexity. I don't want to spoil the ending of the film, but I will say that it managed to surprise me, which is something a zombie film hasn't done in quite some time. My one complaint about the film, and it is a minor one, is that it occasionally veers into preachy when a lighter touch would be far more effective.

Shout-Out(s): Sennia Nanua's performance here is enthralling, especially considering she was only 14 years old at the time of filming. She oscillates between sweet and fierce, pulling both off with ease. If Nanua and Dafne Keen (Logan) ever star in a film together I'm fairly certain the level of female badassery would cause a rift in time and space.

To Go, Rent, or to Netflix: The film is available on Netflix, but would absolutely be worth paying a rental fee if you don't have a Netflix account.

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