Think of a British zombie film… 28 Days Later? Shaun of the Dead? Err… 28 Weeks Later? Months Later? Did they get to years later? Anyway, now we have a new film to add to that list in Colm McCarthy’s The Girl with All the Gifts, a dystopian British zombie flick that has a refreshingly original take on the genre.
The film opens underground, in some kind of military base/school where the children are restrained in wheelchairs before class. A great strength of the film is how it gradually immerses you into its dystopian world. I would definitely recommend going in blind and without seeing the trailers as the increasing sense of unknown in the film’s opening scenes is a real treat. And once things do get above ground things the action ramps up and we’re in full blown zombie film territory.
Filmed largely in and around Birmingham and the Midlands the film certainly looks British and the way the story moves from military base, to countryside, to an overgrown and derelict London is especially interesting. The post-apocalyptic London however is not quite as convincing, or as menacing as 28 Week Later’s vision but it perhaps it is meant to feel like a different future, one years after the attack as opposed to Danny Boyle’s film.
But The Girl with All the Gifts is more a character driven film than action driven and the central performance are responsible for much of the film’s appeal. The always reliable Paddy Consadine is a real standout, giving a often restrained but highly emotive performance, more so as the film progresses towards its climax. Gemma Arterton, although billed as the lead, feels slightly underused, her character never exploring a back-story that adds a richness to the other principal characters, but her performance hits all the right notes regardless.
The most talked about performance however comes from newcomer Sennia Nanua playing Melanie. It’s rare for a child actor to have to carry a film such as this one with a performance so ambitious but Nanua does a sterling job of giving believable and above all entertaining performance that means that two hours in her characters company is never dull. Without giving too much away, Nanua does a great job of showing her character change across the course of the film.
The field of British zombie films is, although small, a competitive one, with 28 Weeks Later and Shaun of the Dead frequently being cited as some of the best British films in recent memory. It’s hard to say whether The Girl with All the Gifts will have quite the same lasting impact. Personally I’m not sure it can live up to the height of its predecessors but for now it’s a fantastic addition to the genre.
– By Jamie Hutton