Spoilers aplenty below.
I never jumped on the zombie apocalypse train when it left the station a few years ago. It was fully laden though as plenty of others did jump on. Witness the popularity of TV shows like The Walking Dead, and films like 28 Days Later and World War Z. I did jump on the zombie comedy film train though, with the films Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland.
It won’t come as a surprise, after that preamble, that The Girl with All The Gifts is a film in the zombie genre. Although the zombies are called hungries in the film, and the book. The book is how I came to the film. I read it last year after it was highly recommended on several Sci-Fi blogs. I liked it a lot. Both the book and the film script were written in tandem by M.R. Carey. They tell the story of Melanie (played by Sennia Nanua in the film), who is one of a group of children being held in a military base and research centre in England. Here they are taught, while strapped into wheelchairs that are pushed into the classroom, by a sympathetic teacher called Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton). They are also used in medical research by a team led by Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close) who are trying to find a cure or vaccine for the fungal infection that turns people into hungries. Turns out the children are from mothers who were infected before the children were born, and have a less damaging version of the fungal infection. A sort of symbiotic relationship with it. So they are neither human or hungries. But something different, and new. Melanie is very smart and quickly learns and remembers things she is told or sees.
The military base they are in gets overrun by hungries and Melanie, Miss Justineau, and Caldwell escape in an armoured truck with two soldiers, Sargent Parks (Paddy Considine) and Private Gallagher (Fisayo Akinade). They plan to drive towards another military base but the truck is damaged and they have to continue on foot through the hungries’ infested suburbs of London. Melanie starts to play an important role in helping the group navigate the dangerous streets. The hungries don’t attack anyone already infected with the fungus, so Melanie is able to move amongst them safely. The film is actually a coming of age story as Melanie comes to realise that she, and other feral children who are like her, are the future of humanity as they can coexist with the fungal infection. She takes actions to ensure that she and the other children survive.
I liked the film a lot. The book has more detail and exposition, as you would expect. But the film is good in its own right. The performance by Sennia Nanua as Melanie is fantastic. And she is ably supported by the four other principle cast members. The depiction of post-apocalyptic London is very well done. As are the hungries. The music is very suspenseful. In lots of scenes it is just shifting harmonic tones, but it’s very effective. I loved the ending to the book, and it’s there unchanged in the film. You should definitely go see this, then read the book if your haven’t already. I rated it 8/10.