Film review: The Girl With All the Gifts
Updated: Nov 11, 2021
I had been saving this for Halloween and so glad that I finally watched it this year.
The truth is, I don't like scary movies with jump cuts - poltergeists and hauntings? No thanks.
But when it comes to zombie movies, bring it on.
I was immediately hooked from the cold open. It's a story told from the perspective of the titled girl, Melanie, played by Sienna Nanua, with a slow build that requires you to pay attention, quiet moments of introspection, and by the end of the film I felt completely satiated with a fully developed story.
Without giving too much of the plot away, the story starts with the zombie apocalypse already well established. There are children who are held captive at an army base in England, who are being experimented on. It turns out they are sentient "hungries" - the in-universe name for zombies. Melanie, one of these children, form a special bond with Ms. Justineau (Gemma Arterton), and they are forced to find a way to survive when the army base becomes compromised. Throughout the story, we learn how the hungries came to be, and how humans might yet survive.
One of the reasons I loved this film is the perspective of who tells the story. Most if not all zombie movies have male protagonists. I actually cannot think of a zombie film with a female, let alone a child, as its protagonist. Telling the story in this way was not only refreshing but also opened the way for interesting plot points and moments.
For example, a few key moments focusing on Melanie as she is alone, exemplified the magic of showing and not telling. Sienna Nanua's acting, combined with the beautiful cinematography by Simon Dennis, and haunting music by Cristobal Tapia de Veer (who is based in Montreal, by the way), really stood out to me and made the film all the more memorable. To be treated with this kind of slow and introspective scene in a zombie movie felt really impactful.
Thanks to this film, I'm now thinking about what kind of stories would exist if we had more monster movies told from a female lens. What kind of narratives could emerge?
TL;DR Loved it, a refreshing take on a zombie story.