The Girl With All The Gifts feels like the sort of film Sean Bean was meant to be in. The hardened, gruff military man whose heart will soften over the course of the film thanks to a precocious youth and a saucy minx. But he’s probably going to die in the end, maybe sacrificing himself along the way. At its heart though, it’s not about some burly man – it’s a film about a dying world, a mutating world, in which the surviving humans find themselves no longer relevant, much in the same way as I Am Legend suggests, except the focus in more uniquely on the relationship between a girl and her teacher.
As with most YA fiction and apocalyptic movies, there’s is a certain amount of world building and exposition to wade through before we get to the meat of the story and characters. We learn early on that a fungal based disease has wiped out most humans, with those infected being 28 Days Later type creatures. The central twist is that a group of kids who were born half infected are able to somewhat control their monstrous natures and retain portions of their humanity. Scientists have learned from these kids and are in the process of finding a cure and working on ways to further restrain the mutation from taking hold in the children. Gemma Arterton stars as the teacher, Glenn Close is the lead scientist, Paddy Considine is the Sean Bean, and Sennia Nanua is (insert title… maybe). There are varying degrees of distrust and desires between these leads and their factions but when an attack on their safe space makes them outcasts in a dangerous world, they need to find away to work together to survive.
The Girl With All The Gifts is that rare YA adaptation which almost entirely dispenses with notions of romance – there’s no tacked on boy meets girl here which is refreshing in a genre so devoted to pining teens and brooding hunks. While the world and the scenario isn’t exactly unique, there’s enough dedication to design to make this Britain feel believable, and enough quirks in the story and plot devices to keep it distinct. With the cast above you know it’s going to be a well acted affair, and I was surprised by how cold it is throughout – there are difficult decisions and moral dilemmas and characters seem troubled by these as well as the actions of others, while still seeking to meet their own needs or wishes. It’s pleasingly dry and bleak too when it comes down to the wire, and doesn’t allow for any surprise twist or heroic shock to save the day. It’s pretty clear from the opening minutes that humanity is fucked, but it takes until the closing minutes just to realize how much.
Let us know in the comments what you think of The Girl With All THe Gifts!