Colm McCarthyUnited Kingdom110 minutes2016ColourEnglish
A sweet little girl who may hold the key to a cure for the zombie virus that has decimated most of the world’s population escapes from a military compound and sets out to find her place in the world.
Melanie (Sennia Nanua) is a sweet little girl who likes school, loves books, and adores her teacher, Ms. Justineau (Gemma Arterton, also at the Festival in Orphan and Their Finest) most of all. Melanie also happens to be chained to her desk, occasionally muzzled, and kept under lock and key in a high-security cell whenever she's not in class. That's because just catching a whiff of human flesh turns her into a ravenous monster.
Melanie lives in a military compound with a few other children her age, under the watchful eye of the Sergeant (Paddy Considine), his soldiers, and a cold-hearted scientist, Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close). Outside the compound, the planet is overrun by "hungries," people stricken with a fungal infection that destroys their minds and turns them into voracious cannibals. Melanie and her classmates are anomalies: beset by this morbid hunger but otherwise normally functioning. Caldwell believes the children hold the key to a cure, but she won't know for sure until she's got their brains in jars. When Melanie is forced to flee the relative comforts of the only home she's ever known, she starts to understand what she is — and what her true place is in the outside world.
Under Colm McCarthy's direction, Nanua makes the pint-sized flesh eater a sympathetic character who exudes innocence even when blood and gristle drip from her snapping jaws. She is supported by the distinguished cast (you read that right: Glenn Close makes her Midnight Madness debut!), who sink their teeth into Mike Carey's screen adaptation of his own acclaimed novel. The zombie genre may have been suffering from rigor mortis due to pop-culture overexposure, but The Girl with All the Gifts gives it a welcome, revitalizing infusion.