Mike (M.R.) Carey’s "The Girl with All the Gifts" is one of the better – and most original – zombie apocalypse novels I’ve read of late, so when I heard that it’s been adapted into a movie starring Glenn Close and the lovely Gemma Arterton I knew I can only resist watching it with as much success as the undead can decline an all-you-can-eat brain buffet. Unfortunately, foreign films (in this case British) generally take a bit longer before reaching the American audience if they do at all, and even when it finally happens these films typically only get a limited release due to the sheer number of competing films out there at any given time.
Determined as I was, when I found out that TGWATG is finally released stateside (only five months after its initial release in England) last weekend I drove 35 miles to see it at the Laemmle NoHo Theater in North Hollywood, not far from the Dolby Theater where they held the (somewhat disastrous) Oscars last night. And it was well worth it. First-time director Colm McCarthy and writer Mike Carey (who wrote the screenplay) hewed closely to the book for the most part and told the story from the very human and sympathetic viewpoint and experiences of the protagonist, a young girl named Melanie who (you guessed it) possesses “all the gifts.” As in the book, the relationship and special bond between Melanie and her teacher, Miss Justineau (Arterton), provide the emotional depth and complexity to the story as we follow them and a few other survivors in their trek across a devastated English countryside toward a safe haven called Beacon.
As I anticipated, TGWATG is a taut, riveting zombie apocalypse/survival thriller unlike anything we’ve seen before. It’s a fresh take on the “zombie” viral outbreak concept and injected a refreshing jolt to a clichéd genre much as Danny Boyle’s ’28 Days Later’ did back in 2003. The movie also has a certain "Lord of the Flies" element in it that’s in line with its focus on children as humanity’s future and a shocker of a twist ending. Less expected is the fine performance turned in by 12-year old newcomer Sennia Nanua as the precocious and very "gifted" girl who may be the key to our survival, or perhaps the instrument of our very extinction?