The zombie film. A popcorn horror movie and an existential reflection on humanity's fears rolled into one gory spectacle. But alas, with the first zombie films being made in the 60s, we have to accept that although popular, the zombie genre is a very worn one. Every road has been travelled, every story has been told and every brain has been eaten. From zombie romance to zombie horror, from zombie comedy to zombie drama, we have just about seen every possible zombie iteration possible. Or so we thought. Enter, The Girl With All the Gifts.
The Girl With All The Gifts is a post-apocalyptic zombie drama directed by Colm McCarthy, starring Paddy Considine, Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close and newcomer Sennia Nanua. The narrative of the film focuses on Melanie (Nanua in her first feature film), a young girl trying to find her place in an increasingly scary world. She makes friends and enemies, learns the importance of school, and resists her insatiable lust for human flesh. And you thought your younger years were tough.
The story takes us across a world reclaimed by nature, and one in which humans have lost their position on the food chain. We follow Melanie as she flees a safe zone with a harsh soldier who doesn’t trust in her humanity (Considine), a doctor who wants to cut her up to make a vaccine (Close) and the silver lining of Melanie’s life; a teacher who cares deeply for her (Arterton). The film skilfully avoids the usual zombie cliché’s and takes us on a very unexpected journey which maintains its own unique voice from start to finish.
The film is semi-based on the novel of the same name. I say ‘semi-based’, because although the book was released first, M.J. Carey wrote both the novel and the screenplay at the same time. This gives the film a unique narrative base as instead of standing on the shoulders of its source material, it runs in tandem alongside it. Carey was also heavily involved in the production of the film itself, and there is a real unified vision between the director and author of what the film should be. This unity lends itself to some fantastically crafted material, such as the claustrophobic opening that is beyond unsettling.
This unified vision travels through other aspects of the production including the sound design, which is impeccable throughout the film. There are some amazing uses of ambient sound to compliment the imagery, and the sound really resonates and gives a third dimension to the films already beautiful cinematography.
Another of the film’s many strengths is the quality of acting. All cast members give very human and relatable performances but there are two stand out actors; Glenn Close who has been lauded for her acting prowess for over 30 years, and Sennia Nanua whose only other role lasted under 5 minutes. The fresh faced Nanua holds her own against veteran Close, and scenes they share are some of the most compelling in the film.
The notable only issue the film has is its over use of product placement. Several times during the film real life shops such as Next and M&S make appearances in shots of the city. Instead of having the intended effect of placing the film in reality, the opposite occurs and it becomes almost comical seeing the contrast of everyday life against the ravenous zombie hordes. The worst offender of this is a wide shot over a derelict Mercedes Benz office in which the camera holds on a huge Mercedes logo that is lying flat on the roof. This had a very jarring effect that took you out of the film’s very engrossing narrative.
Despite this however, the film manages to keep its pace throughout and we are left with a very unique zombie film. This is a definite must-watch for any fan of zombie films and a definite should-watch for everyone else. The Girl With All The Gifts is a breath of fresh air and a much needed addition to the zombie zeitgeist.
Book tickets now to catch The Girl With All The Gifts at FACT.