#MUFFApproved TIFF 2016: The Girl With All The Gifts
More human than human (while eating humans)
Dir. Colm McCarthy
Starring: Sennia Nanua, Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close
During a zombie apocalypse, it’s always us vs. them. But what about Melanie (newcomer Sennia Nanua) and the other half-zombie kids, whose mothers were turned while they were still in utero? Although the children have independent thoughts and feelings — as opposed single-minded “hungries” — they still need to feed on live mammal flesh. Are they human or not?
Melanie is giving, observant, and curious and it’s crushing to see such a caring individual (along with all the other children) restrained and carted around, only to be experimented on. But Melanie takes everything in stride and she’s fucking awesome because of it. Even though she is often called degrading names by the military officials around her for her eating habits, she continues to smile and manages to finds the silver lining in everything.
The relationship between Melanie and her teacher Ms. Justineau (Gemma Arterton) is the core of the movie. They love one another, even though neither can be afforded such a luxury in their circumstance. Their relationship is the catalyst to people viewing Melanie differently, which is why it’s so heartbreaking to see different obstacles (man-made or natural) tear them apart.
But I have to warn you, the imagery of Melanie (who is played by the only woman of colour in the main cast) being escorted around in shackles and mask is terrifying. It’s hard to separate the fiction of the movie from the history of our reality — and I’m not sure if that was a concise choice of the filmmakers. I want to believe it was.
To contradict the humans’ thoughts on half-hungries, Melanie is often the voice of empathy in their small escape group. Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close) only thinks of the science and Sgt. Parks is propelled by the mission of finding a safe base. But if someone needs help, Melanie is the first to offer aid.
Even covered in blood and caged in a mask, Nanua effortlessly plays the role Melanie. You never forget that she’s part zombie… and yet that doesn’t take away any of your love for her. And she’s unapologetic about her eating habits, which is so exhilarating in a horror movie!
The ending is also very refreshing for the genre. Melanie, by sacrificing her life in the name of science, could help find a cure for the infection that turns people into hungries. Instead she makes an decidedly harder decision.
Melanie is not “the girl with all the gifts” because of some unique power — any of the other half-hungry children at the military base could have been used for the cure. Her gifts lie in her open attitude towards the world and herself. And that’s a message I can get behind!