The Girl With All The Gifts Movie Review
Written by Karin Crighton
Released by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Directed by Colm McCarthy
Written by Mike Carey, based on the novel by Mike Carey
2017, 111 minutes, Rated R
Released on April 25th, 2017
Gemma Arterton as Helen Justineau
Glenn Close as Dr. Caroline Caldwell
Anamaria Marinca as Dr. Selkirk
Paddy Considine as Sgt. Eddie Parks
Sennia Nanua as Melanie
Fisayo Akinade as Kieran Gallagher
Melanie isn’t your ordinary ten-year-old. She’s smart and patient, a bit mischievous but very attentive to rules and regulations. Plus she’s undead. Trapped in a classroom run by military personnel, Melanie was content to attend lessons with her beloved teacher Miss Justineau until the end of time, but the “Hungries” outside had other plans. A breach in the protected base sends Melanie, her teacher, the scientist trying to open up her skull, and some very wary sergeants out into the dangerous world of the living and the dead. Tasting freedom for the first time is a luxury Melanie never expected, but can she keep her favorite teacher safe while she learns what it truly means to be what she is?
The film adaption of Mike Carey’s The Girl with All the Gifts surprisingly fixes many of the faults in the novel, penned by the original author himself. While both depict Melanie as crucial to the survival of the scrappy band of humans, paperback Miss Helen Justineau is an instrument of Melanie’s survival, constantly defending a blond-haired, blue-eyed angelic child. She sacrifices her own freedom to let Melanie have a future, seemingly without doubt. This film’s Helen is much more realistic. She’s not reciprocative of Melanie’s devotion, but rather appreciative of this strange being willing to help her. Melanie’s genius stands alone without propping up by anyone else (save newcomer Sennia Nanua’s easy delivery of those complicated lines) and she is refreshingly flawed and dangerous. When she finally sees the only solution available to her, she takes it, knowing it will cost more to others than to herself but accepting the responsibility that comes with that decision. She is the future and is unafraid to make that known to those who attempted to suppress her for so long.
Unfettered to the book’s adoration of its Melanie, the screenplay allows Nanua to shine as the slightly detached but enormously curious girl. A lifetime of incarceration makes her awkward adoration of her teacher both understandable and pathetic. Gemma Arterton (Helen Justineau) doesn’t play a woman weighed down by torments of her past, but someone fighting to change the future into a livable place. Her pain at having to accept a world unlike one she planned is the most powerful moment in this film. Paddy Considine is perfectly cast as the cautious and gruff Sgt. Parks. His acceptance of Melanie is measured with precision, and each new instance where he realizes he’s growing to like this strange girl is done with beautiful nuance. Glenn Close is able to make cold-hearted Caroline completely justified in her scientific research; the horrors she describes the Hungries performing. Her detachment and fascination with Melanie is entirely valid. I do believe my favorite change of heart was Kieran Gallagher. No longer has the novel’s coward, Fisayo Akinage delivers a Kieran Gallagher that is brave, fearful, and tragically human.
There’s a certain passion lacking overall; a small sense of distance between the emotions and the audience. The story flies along at a brisk pace, there’s never a dull moment, but it leaves intimacy behind. It doesn’t deter from the enjoyment of the movie, but it doesn’t let the story settle in your bones like 28 Days Later does. That being said, the new ideas writer Carey brings to the zombie genre are as horrifying as they are inspired. To unearth any innovations in a genre that’s nearly been done to death to undeath is worth a watch.