To be a good stand-alone film, especially a film based off of a book, is to open up the borders of interpretation. A good film needs substance, a solid story, and it must leave the audience coming up with answers to their own questions.
The Girl With All The Gifts is a film that does exactly that. As someone who went into the film completely blind, never having even read the book, I found it very easy to follow. While characters could have developed better, I can see the effort that was put into making a coherent piece of media that is open to interpretation.
The plot of the film is immediately recognisable, especially as most people have seen a zombie film at some point in their lives. We’re greeted by our plucky heroine Melanie, a young girl who was born infected with the fungus that turns humans into ‘hungries’. Hungries are the creatures that are infected with the spores from this fungus, and turn into beasts that feast on living things like cats, foxes, and of course people. While the people who become infected are almost mindless, these children are not. Melanie is not.
We see her in school, how she interacts with her favourite teacher, and multiple other students. It all sounds relatively normal right now, right? Wrong. She’s a prisoner in a military base, a child who has to be strapped into a chair before she can be moved, and must stay strapped to that chair at all times when out of her cell. Why? Because she’s a hungry. But obviously she’s no ordinary hungry.
When the base is attacked they need to relocate, and thanks to the will of one doctor, Melanie is taken with the teacher, the commander, and the doctor, to find survivors and rebuild. There could be a vaccine, and obviously Melanie’s brain and spine are the key. But will Melanie sacrifice herself to save the human race? Or could there be something different going on in the mind of one brilliant young girl.
The title leaves a lot to assume. From seeing the film and nothing else, I came up with my own conclusions as to what it means. As you’d expect, the film is about the zombie apocalypse. It features all the standard tropes of the zombie film genre, including side characters getting mauled to death by zombies; the issue of food rations, and a not-so-safe-house becoming overrun.
As well as bringing a fresh take to these well-loved staple moments, The Girl With All The Gifts raises – and answers – questions which as of yet have done unanswered in zombie films. One question in particular relates to babies.
Babies in zombie universes, specifically the pregnant women who become infected with whatever the heck it is that’s causing people to become zombies. As it stands, this question is answered. Also answered is what happens to children who are infected, and these children who are born from infected mothers. Questions and answers, and it’s made one hell of a satisfying film.
Alongside these long awaited answers is the amazing performance by Sennia Nanua as Melanie, a fantastic young actress who brought a new light to how we view zombies and zombie films. It was refreshing to see a young, black, female actress take the lead in a film like this, and I hope that it encourages even more films to diversify their casts and create a colourful array of opportunities for other young actors such as Sennia.
Now, as this is a spoiler free review, I want to address the ending. As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, the film is open to so much interpretation that you could have theories coming out of your ears. The ending is abrupt, unexpected, and leaves you questioning both your own morals and thoughts on the events that take place. Were decisions made that shouldn’t have been made? Were you left satisfied? What reasoning do you have for certain actions?
I think that this film needs a lot of discussion and theorising. Not really on the what happened or who did what, but more of the why. Why did these things happen? Need answers? All will be explained if you take the time to watch this film and consider it’s thought-provoking and controversial subject.
Watch the trailer here, if I haven’t already convinced you to see it.