Film Review: The Girl with all the Gifts

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The Girl with all the Gifts by M. R. Carey

Released: 23 September 2016 (UK)

Genre: Thriller, Post-apocalyptic

Cast: Glenn Close, Gemma Arterton

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥

Earlier this week, I was invited to a preview screening of The Girl with all the Gifts and jumped at the chance because it’s one of those books that I still remember quite vividly as it was unlike anything I’d read or usually read. Normally, when choosing a book, I will browse a few reviews or, more often than not, I’ll already have a title in mind (aka “TBR pile” hehe). But with TGwaltG I distinctly remember choosing it based solely on the blurb. Another reason I’ve not forgotten it is because I had no idea it was a zombie book! I am not a fan of horror or anything of that ilk. Like, at all. And so zombies were not on my reading radar at all. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that although, yes it is a zombie book, it explores human relationships enduring against all odds – something I could totally get behind.

The preview screening was preceded by an intro by the director and cast. I didn’t for one second think it would be anything but a pre-recorded message just saying a few words about the movie so imagine my surprise when onto the stage troop the cast, Glenn Close, Gemma Arterton, Sennia Nanua, Paddy Considine, Colm McCarthy, the director, and M.R. Carey, the author himself, and I may have freaked out a little, they were literally mere metres away!!

There was a brief interview and Sennia Nanua spoke about making her acting debut as the titular character, Melanie, Gemma spoke about the humanity behind the characters and the story, and Glenn spoke about making sure she scared the crap out of Sennia during filming because she has a reputation to uphold  😀  M. R. Carey also spoke about adapting his novel for the screenplay and seeing his debut novel transferred to screen.

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The movie itself was pretty intense. As I’ve said before, disclaimer: I’m such a scaredy cat so I was jumping and hiding at the very suggestion of a zombie ambush, but even still I could appreciate the acting was well done. Sennia was amazing considering it’s her first ever film, and her role as Melanie requires a lot of variety, going from ravenously hungry zombie one minute to normal inquisitive child the next. Her connection with Gemma’s character Ms Justineau was really obvious and helped carry the movie. Glenn Close was also totally believable as Dr. Caldwell, the scientist hell-bent on finding the cure to the zombie contagion that she gets them in pretty hairy situations. I loved Paddy Consodine’s portrayal of Sgt. Parks, the ultimate cynic and watching his interactions with Sennia’s character provided some of the highlights – they injected some humour into what is a pretty bleak story.

Now onto the things that didn’t quite hit the right notes for me. I didn’t think there was enough of a backstory as to how the contagion came about and what had happened to the UK by the point we join the story. I’m a firm believer that a post-apocalyptic movie should have solid world building for it to be plausible. The other thing is the common complaint by viewers who have read and enjoyed the book (guilty!) – the film deviated quite a bit from the book especially towards the end and it wasn’t immediately obvious why. I’m all for condensing things to squeeze a 300-page book into a 100 minute movie but these changes should feel justified. I also wasn’t overly sold on the ending which was an aspect of the book that I really liked and felt made sense.

Overall, the strength of this movie lies in the acting, but more so the human relationships it explores – it is not your typical zombie movie! If anything it’s about living fully and making connections with others that overcome arbitrary boundaries. And this did shine through in the movie.

The Girl with all the Gifts is released tomorrow in the UK (23 September) – you should give it a go if you’re even vaguely interested in the zombie/post-apocalyptic genre or just if you want to watch a film with the simple message that there’s more that binds us than separates us (even if some of us are zombies…)  😉

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