Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)

Melanie loves going to class and interacting with her teachers, especially Miss Justineau. When she's not in class, she sits alone in her cell with no one to talk to and nothing to do until Sgt. Parks comes to collect her. When this happens, he trains a gun on her and straps her thoroughly into a wheelchair and takes her to class, to bathe, or to eat. Her classmates disappear periodically and don't return. One day, the base is attacked and Melanie finally gets to leave her very small world. She escapes with a small band of people including Miss Justineau, Sgt. Parks, Dr. Caldwell, and Private Kieran Gallagher. Together, they work to seek shelter, collect food, and avoid hungries in the wasteland that is England. Unfortunately, Melanie is discovering much about herself in her new environment, including keeping her own hunger in check...

I loved the book the film is based on because of it's different view of zombies, unexpected ending, and wonderful characters. The film has lot of the same aspects. The situation and zombies are the same. Civilization is reduced to small factions of humans and the only one seen in the film is the army base. The zombie vector is a fungus. The first generation is completely animalistic. They are attracted by human scent, follow it to their prey, and mindlessly attack. When nothing is around, motion isn't necessary and they stand still. The second generation of hungries retains some of their mental faculties even when out of human influence. Eventually, they can be taught to be as intelligent and interactive as humans. Both types of the second generation are seen in the film.

Sennia Nanua imbues Melanie with optimism and a sunny disposition despite the depressing trappings of her life at the lab. She latches onto things that make her happy and doesn't dwell on the poor treatment. What truly bothers her is when the arbitrary numbers she picks for Dr. Caldwell cause her classmates to disappear. Dr. Caldwell is cold, calculating, and above all practical. The young hungries are a means to an end, not children. I never thought I would see her in a film like this, but she's absolutely perfect in this role. Gemma Arterton plays Helen Justineau, the only person in the film that treats the hungries as human. As most teachers do, she teaches because she loves it and cares for the children, directly influencing Melanie's view of the world. I couldn't have chosen better people to play these characters.

The Girl with All the Gifts is a well made movie I was disappointed to miss in the theater. Compared to the book, there was something missing for me, but otherwise was well done. A few plot points are different than the book. Most of these differences are fairly minor, but a few annoyed. The look of the fungal plants is a bit too cheesy for such a serious movie. The visuals of actual children attacking and becoming covered in blood is much different than reading about. The duality of innocence and violence is much more obvious. The feral children are also very well acted and directed. I particularly appreciated keeping the same ending of the book. It's controversial and not at all common.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

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