The Girl with All the Gifts online movie review - Another addition to Zombie media with the only real noteworthy difference being a little Black girl as our lead.
Maggots | Headshots | Baby Carcas
Dr. Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close) | Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton) | Melanie (Sennia Nanua)
Characters & Storyline
In some sort of post-Zombie apocalypse world Dr. Caroline Caldwell still tries to find a vaccine in order to save the pockets of humanity that is left, and one of the people in her way is a teacher. One Ms. Helen Justineau who is trying to protect this little girl named Melanie. A sweet girl, the kind you'd want for your daughter but, thing is, she is like those they fear. She is a "Hungry," this movie's term for zombies, and while still in control, very human appearing, when she is hungry she becomes like the rest. However, with such a developed mind there is the question of whether she may possess the vaccine, could her death mean salvation for the rest? That is part of the struggle in the film, that and surviving.
Child actors are a dime a dozen. Often times they are just cute kids who thankfully remember their lines and cues. However, there are also those who have something beyond a cuteness factor, an innocence which is used for sympathy or to lull you into a false sense of security. Nanua has that. Like some young stateside actors such as Jacob Tremblay known for Room or Oona Laurence known for Southpaw, you see in Nanua this potential. This ability that very few young actors have to not only hang with their more seasoned peers but legitimately command the audience's attention.
So Many Missed Opportunities
Perhaps the biggest issue of this movie is it fails to harness the idea of our heroes fearing for their lives much less them having bonds with each other, much less Melanie having a bond with Ms. Helen. To elaborate, Melanie obviously cares for her peers for while they aren't allowed to interact, can't see much besides the back of another person's head, unless they are within their peripheral vision, when she learns one has died it saddens her. With this, you'd think a darkness would start to grow as the truth of her living situation was revealed. Then from there, the movie's world is one filled with zombies. For reasons unknown, said zombies overrun the base and force our heroes into the outside world. There, as much as some are trigger happy, you don't get this real sense of fear or even tension. It's like everyone was working against CGI, rather than real people, so they just couldn't get into it.
But perhaps my biggest issue is that Melanie and Ms. Helen, despite how much they seem to like each other, don't form a real close bond. I'm talking about mother/ daughter or big sister/ little sister. Something to make it so when Helen is amongst the zombies, you fear for her life because of how it may affect Melanie. Something to make it so in those moments when there aren't zombies around, and there isn't a strong possibility of someone being killed, you'd have reason to focus and care about what is going on. For, I mean, even if Ms. Helen kept it in a favorite student and favorite teacher level and just continued Melanie's lessons, maybe did more stories since now she could, that would have been better than what was given to us.
But, in general, it just feels like everyone is kept at arm's length, as detached from you as they are some sense of personality, and only Nanua gives you any reason to connect with her character.
Overall: Mixed (Home Viewing)
While Nanua definitely seems like a star in the making, unfortunately, this film doesn't do her potential justice. It ignores the path of building the relationship between her character and Arterton's or even making the lives of Melanie's peers matter to her deeply, it somehow lacks the tension of 100s of zombies who could kill them all any minute, and just as everyone keeps Melanie at arm's length, they do the same to you. Leaving it where you don't really get to know any character, you can't form a bond with anyone besides Melanie, and honestly, you do that mostly because Nanua seems like a sweetheart and brings that to the character.
Hence the Mixed label for this, overall, just seems like a lazy zombie film which isn't trying to do anything interesting or new to the genre. Much less, while you can see all this potential, especially considering who is involved, it seems to rush its way to its ending. Which considering this movie is nearly two hours, believe me when I say how strange it felt watching this and waiting for them to finally grab you, only to realize the movie was over.