We first see young Melanie (Sennia Nanua) locked up in her cell, before she emerges to join a class of children.
A smart and eager student, it soon becomes clear that like the other children, Melanie also has a darker side. If an ordinary human gets too close, her hunger for blood rises to the surface hence the need to keep the ‘children’ under armed guard.
Sgt. Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine) keeps the dangerous charges under lock and key, and when they’re brought out for daily school lessons with teacher Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton), they’re strapped in wheelchairs and bound by their hands and feet.
Driven Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close) is working in the bunker in the UK to find a cure for an infectious disease which has swept the globe: a form of fungus which turns its human hosts into Hungries – fast-moving flesh-eaters, reminiscent of zombie classic 28 Days Later.
Close’s Dr. Caldwell thinks that by experimenting on her prisoners she can find a vaccine for the epidemic raging outside the compound. Like Sgt Parks, Caldwell believes the children are sub-human, and that Melanie’s wide-eyed politeness is some kind of parrot-like imitated response, while Miss Justineau is the only person who has any obvious empathy for her young charges.
But when the base is invaded, they escape and embark on a perilous journey of survival, during which Melanie must come to terms with who she is.
Directed by Peaky Blinders’ Colm McCarthy, The Girl with All the Gifts, adapted from the M. R. Carey novel of the same name, is a more thoughtful take on the zombie genre, and asks the audience to ponder the central question of how far are we willing to go to save our species?Caldwell is so detached that she’s unbothered about killing ‘children’ to find a cure. Melanie is a child who is desperate to live no matter what kind of lifeform she is.
As you might expect, there are some gruesome flesh-eating scenes, but the relationship between Close’s ‘mad scientist’ doctor, Melanie and Miss Justineau and the soldiers provide moments of brilliant intimacy between the actors on this $5.2 million (£4 million) low budget movie.
Beneath the initial horror of the apocalyptic scenario is a subplot about an existing species fighting against the emergence of a new one, but also a battle of wits between the old guard and a new generation.
While it may not quite top movies such as 28 Days Later, Nanua does a stellar job against her A-list counterparts, winning over not just her captors, but the audience.
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