From Page To Screen: The Girl With All The Gifts

Book vs. Movie: The Girl With All The Gifts

Posted October 30, 2020 by Amber in Bookish Things / 2 Comments

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Today we’ll be taking a look at the movie The Girl With All The Gifts.  I read this book a couple months ago and although it was pretty tropey, I thought it was generally enjoyable.  However, I didn’t realize there was a movie until I finished the book, and not only was there a movie… but it was pretty well-received.

Since this is a zombie movie, technically, it seemed appropriate for October!

Initial observations – some minor changes.  For one, in casting Sennia Nanua as Melanie, they’ve changed the race of the main character (in the book she’s described as light-skinned with blonde hair). Okay now stick with me here.  Normally I have no problem with casting like this – goodness knows there  need to more opportunities for Black actors in Hollywood – but because of the nature of this tale, it didn’t sit quite well with me that they cast this character as Black when in the book she’s often portrayed as a monster.  In casting Melanie as one of a handfuls Black actors in the film, it felt a little like perpetuating prejudices of non-whites as less-than which I’m not okay with.  Beyond that, Nanua did a good job in the role and I liked Melanie just as well as I liked her in the book.

The other flip was that the kind, sympathetic, and ultimately powerful Miss Justtineau was Black in the book.  And she’s white in the film.  So what I’m seeing is that the sympathetic character was whitewashed, and the diverse role was given to the inhuman character.  And I do. Not. Like. It.

Other small things – Dr. Caldwell uses Melanie’s random numbers to choose students to experiment on. Because Caldwell is portrayed as such a pragmatist in the books – science and logic above all else – this trust in her subjects (which she never humanizes in he books) and random selection was inconsistent with her character.  In fact, I found her a lot more humanized in the film.  In the books, Caldwell is cold and hard.  It’s impossible to like her.  Here, you understand her and depending on who you are, you may even empathize with her.  Losing the operation scene meant a lot of character development for the adults was sacrificed.  To widen the gap between Caldwell and Justineau, Miss Justineau was made more sympathetic.  And the made her continued survival in the film feel even less likely.

Miss Justineau is immediately too emotional.  While she is the sympathetic adult in the books, she’s also overly emotional.  We aren’t given her background in psychology or the fact she knows what these children are – we just see her all watery-eyed in each of the early classroom scenes.

Also, to address a sort of elephant in the room… at the beginning of the movie, the children have no sense of what’s going on in the outside world?  Which seems strange, since all of them came from the outside world.  Miss Justineau doesn’t save Melanie – which removes emotional motivators for Melanie throughout the story – because she is taken away.  Melanie saves Miss Justineau, but she doesn’t save Melanie, not really.

I guess… the whole story felt overly compact to me.  This book was pretty action-driven (I was never bored) and then the movie took all of that and compressed it even more.  I think that without the background I got from the book, I would have been fairly lost in the early parts of the film.  It doesn’t do a great job explaining the pandemic.  You know it’s a zombie movie only when you see zombie, and you know there’s a pandemic at about 39 minutes into the 1hr50min film.  So it takes 25% of the film before you really know what was going on – it’s at the 50min. mark that we get an explanation about Melanie and the children, and it’s a bit more graphic than the book.

Also.  The film is graphic.  It’s bloody and it’s violent.  It’s a zombie movie and a horror film, so this should be expected.  Nonetheless, it’s something to know going in.

I kept getting the sense that the story was there, but details were changed.  Little things that didn’t too much affect the line of the story, but enough that it annoyed me having read the book first.  The group hid in a hospital instead of a house.  Dr. Caldwell’s injury – while ending with the same result – was a lot less severe.  Melanie being excited about a book in the hospital when in the book she stubbornly didn’t want to be read to unless it was Greek Myths.

The graphic eating of the cat is still in the film.

Completely unnecessary.  It’s not even placed the way it was in the book where she needs to feed.  She just smells a cat while she’s out exploring and goes for it.  It wasn’t particularly necessary in the book, less so in the film, and I do NOT appreciate it.  Not to mention the fact that in another scene a bit later, they rubbed it in.  At first I thought she felt guilt over it, but no.  She was looking at it like a freaking grocery store flyer.

Additionally, a dog is used to scare off the hoard while in the book it’s a … I think it was a rabbit?  And in the book it got away.  I’m not sure about the dog.  Whatever happened to it, happened off-screen.

I’m not here for animal abuse.  I don’t care if it’s a horror film.  I’ve written a whole post about how I’m sick of this sort of thing, and it’s not entertainment, and it’s unnecessary.

I don’t know, y’all.  The science of the spread is still really interesting and unique for a zombie flick, but in general?  Where the book was predictable, the film was rushed and frustrating.  If I didn’t have better context earlier on, I would have quit this one.  I just didn’t care for the characters – their development was rush and it left them flat and the relationships unbelievable.  The plot wasted up too nicely, making the few secrets the author kept from he readers immediately available to filmgoers.

The book was okay.  Predictable, but enjoyable for the iteration of zombie plague, but otherwise… meh.  I think this film is a miss – definitely forgettable.  The book was better.

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Are you a fan of zombie movies?  They usually aren’t my thing, but for a good plot I’m willing to give it a try.  Tell me about your favorite zombie flicks in the comments!

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2 responses to “Book vs. Movie: The Girl With All The Gifts

  1. When I watched the movie I enjoyed it….until she eats the cat and the thing with the dog. I found it hard to believe that this kid was so empathetic and caring and intelligent when she’s willing to hurt and use animals in such a way. Now that I know there was white-washing…I like the movie even less.

    • Amber

      Scenes like that… I don’t even know why they’re in the movie. Particularly when you look at adaptations and you think about things to cut, why didn’t they look at that scene and go “oh, eating animals, maybe we can save some time by not filming that scene?” … It astounds me. The white washing was super exasperating as well. The choices some filmmakers make….