Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema: The Girl with All the Gifts

Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema: The Girl with All the Gifts

Article excerpt

I can't say I care for zombies particularly or even understand them -- OK, they're the living dead, but what do they have against the living living? Why do they always want to bite their faces off? -- and I can't say I cared for The Girl With All the Gifts either. This is an adaptation of the dystopian horror novel of the same name by Mike Carey, who also wrote the screenplay. I have not read the book, I confess, as I don't do much that's dystopian if it doesn't involve Margaret Atwood, but I know it was critically well received as well as hailed as 'an original and compelling new take on the zombie genre', which may well be the case, but there is little evidence of that here. Instead, I would say it's business as usual, pretty much.

The film is set in a Britain of the near future where humanity has been afflicted by a fungal disease that transforms victims into 'hungrys' who are greedy for flesh and blood rather than, for example, pizza and chips. (What do the living dead have against the living living? Why can't they just eat pizza and chips?) It certainly opens chillingly and intriguingly in what appears to be some kind of prison or military base occupied by small, innocent-looking children dressed in orange sweats and Crocs. (If you'd asked me which footwear was most likely to survive an apocalypse, I would have said Crocs, no question.) Our interest is piqued. Who are these kids? Why are they strapped into wheelchairs? Why are they accompanied everywhere by soldiers with guns? Who chose their footwear?

Our focus is Melanie (Sennia Nanua), who is ten or thereabouts. Melanie is sweet except in those instances when she smells human bodily fluids and her jaws clatter ravenously, and then she's not so sweet. Melanie is a 'hungry' but, unlike other 'hungrys', she can think and has retained human qualities, like emotional warmth. Melanie is 'partially immune' to the fungus and is therefore of interest if a cure is to be found. Melanie is wheeled to a classroom every day -- she is strapped down so she can't eat anybody -- where she is taught by kindly Miss Justineau, who is uninfected, and has taken a shine to Melanie, just as Melanie has taken a shine to her. …

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