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|The Girl with All the Gifts|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Colm McCarthy|
|Written by||M.R. Carey|
|Based on||The Girl with All the Gifts
by M.R. Carey
|Music by||Cristobal Tapia de Veer|
|Edited by||Matthew Cannings|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures (UK)
Saban Films (United States)
|Box office||$2.1 million|
The Girl with All the Gifts is a 2016 British post-apocalyptic zombie horror drama film directed by Colm McCarthy and written by M.R. Carey adapted from his novel of the same name. Starring Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, Glenn Close, and Sennia Nanua, the plot depicts a dystopian future following a breakdown of society after most of humanity is wiped out by a fungal infection and focuses upon the struggle of a scientist, a teacher and two soldiers who embark on a journey of survival with a special young girl named Melanie.
In the near future, humanity has been ravaged by a mysterious fungal disease. The afflicted are robbed of all free will and turned into fast, flesh-eating zombies referred to as 'hungries'. Humankind's only hope is a small group of hybrid, second generation children who crave living flesh but retain the ability to think and learn. The children go to "school" at an army base in the Home Counties, where they are subjected to experiments by Dr. Caroline Caldwell. The children are treated as prisoners, but humanized by Helen to the dismay of Sgt. Eddie Parks, although they are all restrained in cells, wheelchairs, and under constant armed guard. Helen Justineau is responsible for educating and studying the children. Helen treats the children fairly and kindly, growing particularly close to a polite, exceptional girl named Melanie, who is shown to have a high level IQ and the two form a special bond. Helen tells a story at the pleading of Melanie about the myth of Pandora's Box. After Melanie reads a story she has written about a young girl saving a woman from a monster and the pair staying together forever (clearly drawing a parallel from her own feelings for Miss Justineau), Helen is overcome with emotion and affectionately strokes the girl's head. Sgt. Parks bursts in and severely rebukes Helen; he spits on his arm, rubbing off the masking gel and holds it under the nose of one of the children, evoking a violent, animalistic response from the child that spreads to the others, apart from Melanie who alone struggles to restrain herself, retaining her humanity to impress Helen.
Dr Caldwell is revealed to be researching an antidote by experimenting on the children. Caldwell gives Melanie riddles and puzzles, which her high IQ allows her to solve with her exceptional logic and reasoning. One day Caldwell asks Melanie for a number between one and twenty - Melanie chooses thirteen, and the child in cell thirteen is then absent the following day. The next time Caldwell asks Melanie for a number, she is surprised when Melanie chooses her own cell number (four). Caldwell reluctantly takes her to her lab, whereupon Melanie sees a preserved brain belonging to child thirteen. As she is strapped to a table, Helen rushes into the lab and tries to intervene to save her as it is revealed that Dr Caldwell intends to remove Melanie's brain and spinal column to develop a possible vaccine. Helen is tricked then easily disarmed but the base has been overrun as the fences gave way and the lab is breached before Caldwell can proceed. Melanie escapes the lab but outside the hungries are everywhere and soldiers are being swarmed and violently attacked in a failing, chaotic mass breach.
Melanie wanders stunned by what she sees, but then violently attacks and infects two soldiers who are trying to restrain Helen. Helen and Melanie jump aboard an escaping armoured van. Dr Caldwell, Sgt Parks, and Privates Kieran Gallagher and Dillon reluctantly allow Helen and Melanie into the vehicle, and the group escape the base into the outskirt wilderness. The group reach a river to collect water but get attacked by hungries who have come out of the woods. The group is surrounded by more hungries and defend themselves but Parks is forced to shoot Private Dillon who has been bitten and has started to succumb to the quick-acting fungal pathogen. Afterwards, when Parks asks Dr. Caldwell why there were so many hungries travelling in a group, Melanie speaks up saying, "they must be lonely."
As the van is now broken down, the group proceed to London on foot where there is greater likelihood of food and supplies and where they can better communicate with Beacon, a larger military base. They discover London (which is overgrown with wild, unkempt vegetation) populated with multitudes of dormant, unstimulated hungries. By using a gel that blocks their scent and moving quietly, they manage to sneak past the hungries, shooting several in the head along the way, eventually finding shelter in an abandoned hospital. When they try to leave the next day, they realize the hospital has been surrounded by a greater horde of hungries, possibly from their gunfire the day before. Melanie offers to lead the hungries away - as she alone cannot be attacked, essentially by being one - and the group agrees. She wanders around the area, exploring houses and experiencing childish wonder at the domestic and everyday objects she has never before encountered. She chases and devours a cat, then captures a small dog to use as bait to distract and lure the hungries away from the hospital so the group can escape.
As they progress through London they come across a mass of decomposing, infected bodies encircling the completely overgrown BT Tower and sprouting with seed pods. Caldwell explains to the group that the pods contain spores that if released could end humankind, as the fungal pathogen will become airborne and infect all who breathe. They find a mobile, military lab truck whose original crew has gone missing. The group hole up and Melanie asks to leave to get food as she is finding her urge to feed overpowering. Melanie discovers a group of feral, second generation child hungries, who've learnt to recognize uninfected humans from the scent masking cream of the missing lab crew members. She returns to the lab to warn the group that Kieran, who has also set off in search of food, is in danger and is being hunted by the ferals. Helen and Parks set off with Melanie but arrive too late and find Kieran's body ravaged and the feral child hungries surrounding them. Melanie manages to scare and dominate the hungries off by battling their leader to the death and allowing her to lead Helen and Parks to safety.
When they return to the lab they are ambushed and knocked out by gas that a haz-mat suited Caldwell has released. A severely injured Caldwell, who has blood poisoning from a previous arm wound, attempts to drag Melanie into the lab but Melanie awakens quickly, revealing that her second generation bio-system metabolizes oxygen differently allowing her to hold her breath much longer than the uninfected humans. Caldwell explains that she is dying of her septic wound and needs to find the cure before she succumbs, before the pods ever open, which will eventually happen when they are exposed to extreme heat or water. She tries to reason that she can save Helen and the human race for Melanie by making a vaccine. Melanie asks if Caldwell now believes Melanie is truly alive and feeling, rather than simply "mimicking human emotions" as Caldwell once believed. When Caldwell admits that she knows Melanie is truly alive, Melanie asks why her kind should die to save humanity. Melanie then threatens Caldwell with a bite and leaves the lab, running back to the centre of London where she sets the towering seed-pod structure alight, causing it to germinate en masse and release an immense cloud of airborne spore mist. Dr Caldwell, meanwhile, has attempted to follow Melanie but is surrounded by the feral children and killed. As Melanie returns to the lab she finds Sgt Parks collapsed along the way succumbing to the fungal infection of the released mist. They talk and Melanie finally understands of the root cause of his animosity towards her and her kind: he lost his wife who was 7 months pregnant to the infection; it is hinted that the newborn feasted as it emerged, surviving by burrowing out of the womb of the infected mother, as was indeed the case with Melanie and all other "second-generation" hungries. This was also revealed to Melanie by Dr. Caldwell in an earlier conversation. Sgt Parks asks her to not let him succumb to the fungal virus and Melanie grants him his wish by regretfully shooting him.
The film closes with a tearful Helen awakening in the lab, secure from infection in the airlock of the mobile lab but effectively a prisoner inside the mobile med lab. Outside on chairs are the second generation children of the school/prison at the army base, along with the feral children all waiting and collected together, kept sternly in place by Melanie. Helen begins speaking through a microphone on outside speakers, once again to educate and teach all the children. It closes with Melanie asking for her favourite, a story, and after being kindly declined by Helen says that they now have "plenty of time" to hear one.
The book and film were written in tandem, with Carey also writing the screenplay, which was placed on the 2014 Brit List, a film-industry-compiled list of the best unproduced screenplays in British film. Colm McCarthy came aboard as director for his first major feature. The movie was originally titled She Who Brings Gifts but was later retitled, matching the book.
We went a slightly different way in the movie, especially when it came to point of view. Where the novel moves between the five main characters and lets us see what’s going on in all of their heads, the movie sticks with Melanie all the way. And there are no Junkers in the movie. The base falls to a hungry attack. But it’s a case of two different paths through the same narrative space. The ending is absolutely faithful to the book.— M.R. Carey, in an interview with Mom Advice
Half of the film's £4 million budget came from the BFI Film Fund and Creative England, making it the biggest investment that the latter had ever made and one of the largest ever for the BFI. Warner Bros. bought the United Kingdom distribution rights, while the film is being distributed in the United States by Saban Films.
Principal photography began on 17 May 2015 in The West Midlands, taking place in Birmingham city centre, Cannock Chase, Dudley and Stoke-on-Trent. Filming lasted seven weeks. Aerial views of a deserted London were filmed with drones in the abandoned Ukrainian town of Pripyat, which has been uninhabited since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
The Girl with All the Gifts received positive reviews from critics. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 85%, based on 81 reviews, with an average rating of 7.2/10. On Metacritic the film has a score of 67 out of 100, based on 19 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Dave Robinson of Crash Landed described the film as a "tense and intriguing experience" noting that whilst its final act "goes a little off the reservation" the performance of lead Sennia Nanua will "make you both care [for her] and simultaneously feel on edge" along with the "smart choices" in the CGI department to create a "grounded feel" that offers clear similarities to 28 Days Later.