I read the novel The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey about two years ago now and it’s definitely a book that has stuck with me. Excellent writing, lots of tension, great characters, and a unique twist on the zombie genre. If you’ve followed my blog for a while now, you know I love all things zombie, so to find such a well-written addition to the genre was great.
Understandably, I had high expectations for the film adaptation, especially after seeing some glowing reviews from the likes of Empire. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed!
I dragged my boyfriend along to see the film and, strangely, we had an entire screen to ourselves. This was good in the sense that no one would be talking or texting, but bad in the sense that when Mark left to go to the loo, I was sat in a big screen watching a zombie movie all by myself with surround sound. Needless to say, it was creepy.
Anyway, onto the film itself:
The film itself is very, very true to the book. A couple of scenes were dropped, along with the concept of the “Junkers”, but the vast majority of the major plot points are pretty much identical, which was amazing.
For those of you who don’t know, The Girl With All the Gifts tells the story of Melanie (Sennia Nanua), a young girl kept in an army base along with other children. Each day, she is strapped into a wheelchair by guards who treat her like she’s dangerous and taken to a classroom for lessons from the kind Miss Justineau (Gemma Arteton). That’s when we discover that, outside the army base, the world has been ravaged by a zombie virus, specifically a fungal virus that turns people into “Hungries”. Melanie and her fellow kids in the classroom are Hungries, but they’re different. They aren’t mindless and feral, but instead act like any other average human child. I won’t say why, but be prepared for a very unique zombie story.
And then, one day, it all goes wrong and the army base must be evacuated. Only a handful escape, including Melanie, Miss Justineau, Sergeant Parks (Paddy Considine), Dr Caldwell (Glenn Close) and a couple of soldiers. Will they make it to safety? Can the calculating Dr Caldwell develop a cure? You’ll have to wait and see.
The heart of the story is Melanie. A kind and courageous girl, you can’t help but become deeply attached to her whilst almost slightly fearing her, and I thought Sennia Nanua did an excellent job of portraying the complexities of Melanie on the big screen. Interestingly, in the novel Melanie is white and Miss Justineau is black, but it’s been reversed in the film. I think it’s great that a young black girl has been given such a big part as the main protagonist here, and she was definitely the best actress to play Melanie.
Aside from that one change, I thought all the characters were very true to the book in terms of personality. Helen Justineau’s kindness and protectiveness, Sergeant Parks’ bravado hiding a softer interior, Dr Caldwell’s determination, Private Gallagher’s innocence. It really is a very true adaptation, keeping the core values of the book and much of the plot.
However, whilst this is a film about zombies, it is truly a film about humanity. Some of the best zombie films and books are the ones that look at humanity, not just the blood and gore. I can’t explain too much without revealing the ending, but there are some huge moral dilemmas in The Girl With All the Gifts. Me and Mark had a long conversation about it all afterwards, with differing opinions on morality. It’s definitely a bittersweet story.
The film has also clearly taken inspiration from Danny Boyle’s amazing 28 Days Later so, if you enjoyed that, you should enjoy this. I don’t think it’s as scary as 28 Days Later (Cillian Murphy in the church? The infected at the window? Terrifying), or even as scary as the novel, but it’s not trying to terrify you with jump scares; it’s about so much more than that. It’s about terrifying you with the prospect of the end of humanity.
In addition, I have to give a special shout out to the score for this film. It’s amazing. So creepy and tense and eerie, it was one of the best scores I’ve heard in a long while for a horror film. EDIT: (See link at the bottom to listen to the main theme).
However, there were a few slight negatives to the adaptation. One was that I think the ending was a little rushed. It needed more explanation. This was where me and Mark argued a little as the climax missed out some key aspects from the book and I had to explain it fully to him to make him understand the reasoning behind some of the actions in the finale. There were also a few scenes from the novel I would have liked to have seen included, but there was probably issues with running time. Lastly, whilst most of the big scenes did make it to the screen, some had been changed, and I would have liked them to be the same as the book because I think it would have had more of an impact. But hey, that’s just me being a picky reader.
Overall though, this was an excellent adaptation of the book and I was thoroughly impressed. Excellent acting, very true to the novel and a great score, I couldn’t have asked for much more. I definitely recommend both the book and the film.
Have you read The Girl With All the Gifts? Or seen the film? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!
EDIT: I just managed to find the main theme from the composer on Soundcloud, so check it out here.