At cinemas nationwide
Based on the Young Adult novel by M.R Carey, The Girl With All The Gifts is set in a dystopian future where humanity has been transformed by a fungal disease into zombie-like “Hungries”. Following a “Hungry” invasion of an army base containing hybrid children, a group of survivors; scientist Dr Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close), teacher Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton), soldier Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine) and human/”Hungry” hybrid Melanie (Sennia Nanua), manage to escape and head off on a long journey toward safety in a world filled with threats.
The film is visually interesting, with Director of Photography Simon Dennis providing striking images of a deserted London overrun with plant life and streets filled with static, sleeping “Hungries”. The main performances are mostly strong, with Arterton providing emotional conviction to the character of Justineau, particularly in the few scenes where she fights against the prejudices of Caldwell and Parks by arguing that Melanie is more human than creature. Close does her best with the role of Caldwell, who is determined to kill Melanie and use her as an anti-“Hungry” vaccine. However, the character is consistently depicted as the villain of the film despite the film’s ending revealing that a more nuanced characterisation would have been appropriate.
As Melanie, newcomer Nanua gives a solid performance in her early scenes, where the imprisoned hybrid leads her teacher Justineau to believe in her humanity. However, Nanua struggles in later scenes that call for more emotional and manipulative line readings, a particular example being the final confrontation between Melanie and Caldwell, where Nanua is unable to convey the convincing amount of menace needed for Melanie’s dialogue.
The script, also by Carey, wisely avoids an over-reliance on “Hungry” attacks, centring more on the protagonists wandering around an abandoned London. Whilst this approach should result in a greater focus on characterisation, far too much emphasis is placed on the aforementioned wandering at the expense of character development. This has the unfortunate effect of making the film’s ending appear incomprehensible, with little explanation as to why Melanie behaves in the way that she does. The third act also suffers from moments of unintentional humour, most of them concerning a confrontation involving an army of child hybrids that suffers from poor fight choreography.
The Girl With All The Gifts has the potential to be an intriguing narrative, but sadly falls short of its initial promise.