Set in a derelict dystopia where a fungal pandemic has degenerated the population into rabid, feasting ‘hungries’, this gritty adaptation focusses on Melanie, an infected child who holds the keys to the cure.
Much like Alice in 28 Weeks Later or Julie from Return of the Living Dead 3, Melanie is quintessentially human, however the smell of blood and saliva has the power to rapidly transform her into a ferociously feral flesh-eater. Melanie though, portrayed sensationally by Sennia Nanua, possesses unprecedented degrees of inquisitiveness and innocence, forcing us to ponder what humanity represents in dystopian society and the genre itself.
The Girl with All the Gifts uses all the hallmarks of Britain’s distinctive post-apocalyptic zombie cannon: corrupt institutions, exploited desperation and a desolate, dilapidated capital reclaimed by nature and the undead. It’s on the green, haunted streets and monuments of Central London where director Colm McCarthy delights us with his most spectacular shots, not dissimilar to the cinematic sequences found in The Last of Us and The Walking Dead. Although these stunning long shots are arguably under-utilised, Melanie, seeing our fallen world with unbiased eyes, constantly contextualises these unforgiving ruins. It’s the performance of Nanua, alongside Glenn Close and Gemma Arterton, that, crucially, make these bleak scenes so powerfully relatable.
Although the complex ethical conundrums explored in M. R. Carey’s original narrative cannot be fully explored inside two hours, The Girl with All the Gifts still forces you to uneasily ponder them. McCarthy and Carey (who also wrote the screenplay) have produced something with incredible depth, seething tension and disturbing (if slightly scarce) violence, adding something fresh and provoking to a crowded genre.
23 September 2016