The Girl with All the Gifts

On 26 January THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS hits US cinema screens. Here in the UK we were lucky enough to get to see the film in September last year. My advice to those of you in the States? Go see this movie as soon as you’re able. Based on the acclaimed novel by M R Carey, it’s a superb zombie tale with an excellent cast, which echoes the works of George Romero and John Wyndham in equal measure. Below you’ll find a synopsis, the trailer, and a link to click to read my thoughts.

The near future; humanity has been all but destroyed by a mutated fungal disease that eradicates free will and turns its victims into flesh-eating “hungries”. Only a small group of children seem immune to its effects.

At an army base in rural England, this group of unique children are being studied, subjected to cruel experiments by biologist Dr. Caldwell. Despite having been infected with the zombie pathogen that has decimated the world, these children retain normal thoughts and emotions. And while still being subject to the craving for human flesh that marks the disease these second-generation “hungries” are able to think and feel making them a vital resource in the search for a cure.

The children attend school lessons daily, guarded by the ever watchful Sergeant Parks. But one little girl, Melanie, stands out from the rest. Melanie is special. She excels in the classroom, is inquisitive, imaginative and loves her favourite teacher Miss Justineau.

When the base falls, Melanie escapes along with Miss Justineau, Sergeant Parks and Dr. Caldwell. Against the backdrop of a blighted Britain, Melanie must discover what she is and ultimately decide both her own future and that of the human race.

Ever since I started writing zombie fiction in 2000, I’ve been asked when I think the undead bubble will burst. Looking back, it’s interesting how my answer has changed. For a long time I thought us zombie authors were living on borrowed time, and that interest would begin to wane at any moment. It didn’t happen, and like the swarms of reanimated corpses which populate zombie novels and films, the zombie-craving audience just keeps getting bigger. Now, the best part of two decades since the first AUTUMN novel was released, I’ve come to believe that the zombie genre will continue to thrive as long as authors and directors continue to have original ideas. It’s not about the zombies, it’s about the survivors and their stories.

THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS is a beautiful movie which takes the genre in an unexpected direction. It’s reminiscent of THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS and NIGEL KNEALE’S QUATERMASS, and that’s a very good thing indeed. Directed by COLM MCCARTHY from a screenplay by M R CAREY from his novel, the film feels decidedly personal and small in scale, yet tells a story with vast implications. The cast is uniformly strong, with excellent performances from PADDY CONSIDINE, GEMMA ARTERTON, GLENN CLOSE and SENNIA NANUA as Melanie, the titular girl.

Visually the film hits the mark, particularly in later scenes where my beloved hometown of Birmingham doubles-up as an alien spore and dead body filled London. There’s a decidedly creepy vibe as the military lead a dwindling pack of survivors though a forest of frozen infected, knowing that a wrong movement at any moment could have devastating implications.

But it’s the human, rather than in-human conflicts which make THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS such a success. On the face of it, it’s a relatively simple and straightforward story, but Carey’s smart script forces us to ask a number of uncomfortable questions which are probably best summed up by the tagline from one of the British movie posters – our greatest threat is our only hope.

An excellent film, which I recommend without hesitation. While you’re waiting to see the movie (as well as the US theatrical release, this month also sees the release of the UK Blu-ray), I’d also recommend Carey’s original novel. There’s a sequel – THE BOY ON THE BRIDGE – out in May.

Bookmark the permalink.
  • Tim Ward

    I can’t wait. I loved going into this novel with no idea what it was going to be about and then was blown away straight through the end. This book is one of the best examples of “full circle” for character arcs, and really is beautiful. Cheers to MR Carey, who was also gracious enough to come in my podcast back when the book released and chat with a fan.