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The (Other) iTunes $0.99 Movie of the Week: ‘The Girl with All the Gifts’

Every week, the folks at iTunes find a movie they like and make it available to rent for the low, low price of $0.99. I’m here to tell you whether that film is worth your hard-earned dollar.

Ok, the main attraction is a little movie called Moonlight. You might have heard of it when it won Best Picture at the Academy Awards a couple of months ago. If not, well, you should know that Moonlight is the very definition of ‘cinematic masterpiece’. It was easily one of if not THE best film of 2016. It features brilliant performances, crisp, timely storytelling and an absolutely heartbreaking original score. If you haven’t already seen it, do not let the chance to rent it for one dollar pass you by. And if you have seen it, well, now’s the chance to experience every glorious moment all over again. That being said, there’s not much else I can say about the film that hasn’t already been said. So …

This week, one girl may hold the key to humanity’s survival in The Girl with All the Gifts

The girl with all the gifts

It’s Not Over

Melanie (Sennia Nanua) is sweet, observant, and eager to learn. By most standards, she’s the best student in her class. But her class is in a high security military compound and full of flesh-eating “hungries” who may be mankind’s last hope for deriving a cure for a fungal disease that’s led to an undead outbreak. Still, Melanie is adored by her teacher Miss Justineau, and she’s revered by the in-house doctor as much as she’s feared by the specialist in charge of security. When the base is overrun by undead hordes, these unlikely companions find themselves in the midst of a last-ditch effort to save humanity and wholly dependent on The Girl with All the Gifts

The girl with all the gifts

It’s Just Not Yours Anymore

Ok, by now you’ve realized that The Girl with All the Gifts is in fact a zombie movie … and I wouldn’t blame you a bit if you stopped reading at the first mention of the z-word. To be honest – short of last year’s Train to Busan – the entire zombie genre has left me feeling more dead than alive in recent years. Like many zombie fans, I held out hope that the zombie stories could find something new and interesting to say. And I’m pleased to report that The Girl with All the Gifts is proof that the genre still has a little blood pumping through its veins.  

Not that The Girl with All the Gifts is a blindingly original bit of z-fiction. It isn’t. Adapted by Mike Carey from his own novel, the overall construct of the film will be familiar to any fans of the genre. But the story Carey tells inside of that construct proves a surprisingly fresh take on zombie fiction. That begins with Carey’s refusal to use the word zombie, referring to his undead monsters as “hungries” instead. Not to mention the fact that his adolescent protagonist Melanie is actually one of them. Well, sort of. Without giving away too much, I’ll just say that Melanie and her classmates are something of an anomaly in the world of The Girl with All the Gifts. And that how they came to be is brutal as hell and just as clever.

Carey brings that same clever approach to the moral and ethical quandaries in The Girl with All the Gifts. On paper, those quandaries are purely about survival of the species … whichever species you might be. But on a more macro level, the entire story presents as a compelling political parable in which one generation clings desperately to the past while the next generation tries to push towards the future … even if humanity as we know it has no place there. One look at the world today is proof of just how prescient Carey’s narrative is, though viewing that narrative through the eyes of his young “hungry” tips a hat to which side he’s on.  

Still, that approach allows the brisk, youthful energy of newcomer Sennia Nanua to resonate through nearly every frame of the film. Nanua doesn’t disappoint, imbuing her Melanie with a childish innocence and burying her calculating intellect under a bright-eyed gaze. As far as child performances go, Nanua’s portrayal of Melanie will stand up to most of the best in recent memory. And that performance is bolstered at every turn by a brilliant supporting cast including Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close, and the incomparable Paddy Considine.

With so much going for it – The Girl with All the Gifts is a great looking film and features a wild original score from Cristobal Tapia de Veer too – it’s a shame that Carey’s script and Director Colm McCarthy pace the action so poorly. Their film plods along from scene to scene and location to location with a clunky sort of grace that threatens to take viewers out of the action. But it never quite does, and in the end The Girl with All the Gifts is a rewarding bit of zombie fiction that should satisfy zombie die hards and newcomers alike. 

The girl with all the gifts

Worth it? 

You bet. Smart, inventive, and flat-out entertaining, The Girl with All the Gifts is a genuine jolt of energy to a zombie genre that’s been on the verge of eating itself for a couple of years now … and it’s got a wicked political bite to boot. Drop that dollar this week and have a little fun while you remind yourself that zombie fiction still has a few tricks up its sleeve. And if you’re down for a double feature, for Pete’s sake make sure you spend that extra buck on Moonlight. You will not regret it. 

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