The Girl with All the Gifts, adapted from M.R. Carey’s novel, presents a harrowing narrative set in a future irrevocably altered by a global and fatal virus. The narrative follows a callous scientist, a remarkable young ‘hungry’ Melanie, a sympathetic teacher come psychologist, and two soldiers. The primary source of narrative conflict is the polarised opinions of the protagonists. Dr Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close) sees ‘hungries’ (zombies), especially the children, as specimens to be harnessed for medical progression whilst Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton) identifies their essential humanity. However, all are united by an overruling need to survive.
The film enters a genre dense with clichés and more misses than hits, yet remains original and engaging. Director McCarthy presents a singular, ambitious vision – he was not to be constrained by a relatively minor budget of £4.4m. tackling conventional ‘zombie’ motifs subversively, and seeking to elicit a more meaningful emotional response rather than fear.
Director McCarthy presents a singular, ambitious vision, tackling conventional ‘zombie’ motifs subversively
The success of the film is arguably carried by excellent performances from a well assembled and refreshingly female-led cast. The titular gifted girl is portrayed by Sennia Nanua, who makes her big-screen debut, whilst Glenn Close gets to exercise her already storied acting chops.
Gemma Arterton presents a standout performance which marks a return to big screen cinema after a number of box office and critical bombs. The raw and compelling performance evidences a shift in Arterton’s career, as her turn in The Girl with All the Gifts suggests an actress taking control of her future.
The film is ultimately daring and engaging, leaving me hungry, not for flesh, but for more original reimaginings of well-worn genres.
(Image courtesy of Warner Bros)