The Girl With All the Gifts

It is a fair bet that any film described by critic Jay Weissberg as “[a] tired attempt to board the zombie bandwagon . . . ” can happily hitch a ride with us.  Sure, the film is a bit heavy handed at times, but maybe every fucking person in the United States should be slapped around a little bit.  We loved the film, based on the book by M. R. Carey, and look forward to its release in North America.

Our favorite character is Melanie, a young black girl growing up in prison.  If it is not thought provoking to see a group of heavily armed, mostly white people so terrified of a petite black girl that they keep her in Hannibal Lecter style restraints for most of the movie, then you probably live in South Dakota and think racism is something the Texas School Board of Education includes in children’s history books as a footnote somewhere near the hills of Georgia.


How the fuck can bullets be soft?

The narrative, and sometimes feel, of this movie draw favorable comparisons to The Last of Us, which finally convinced a lot of parents to throw in the towel and decide that video games might possibly be capable of artistic achievement.  Both build on the not implausible idea that a fungus could give humankind a run for its money.  We have not put up much of a showing lately, and, as it turns out, fungi have been carrying a lot more weight than we thought.  The Girl With All the Gifts also shares some commonalities with one of Warren Ellis’s better recent comics, Trees, which is worth picking up at your local comic book shop.

The pacing is sometimes slow, following Melanie’s still-sharp mind as she attempts to make her way in the only world she has ever known.  Rather than detract from the film, it evokes the same feelings this viewer had watching children dancing under sunlight in David Gordon Green’s George Washington.   What Melanie realizes is that the “end of the world” just means “the end of humanity as we know it.”  Frankly, that might be a welcome development.

As we recall, we have been promised that the world will never again be destroyed by flood.  We do not remember any such promise with respect to fungi.

By the way, those zombies are what you look like visiting Times Square.  Except the zombies move a lot faster and seem to have a goal in mind.



For reasons discussed in more detail below, this is one of the most disturbing films I have seen in a long time.  It affected me viscerally for several days.  If that fact piques your interest, I highly recommend watching this disruptive art project masquerading as a film.

If you have never intentionally put yourself into a dissociative state, you might be bothered by Hardware’s hot mess of a plot.  But if you’re no stranger to time loops, and the horrible feeling of being doomed to repeat the same mistakes ad nauseam, you might feel right at home inside this film, which is one of the bleakest and most graphic portrayals of the end of humanity I have found.  While not entirely accurate, I heard myself describe the film in a post-viewing discussion as “We die watching ourselves die.”

It isn’t the complete lack of hope or even the hard-to-watch almost pornographic deconstructions of human flesh that profoundly disturbed me.  It was the slow realization that I had tried to watch Hardware at least a half dozen times without making it more than 15 minutes into the film.  In that way, Hardware had already infected me and illustrated how insidious passive consumption of media can be.  If I were a character in the film, I wouldn’t stand a chance.  By the time I could exhale, I felt like the song birds my childhood friend from Africa taught me how to shoot and splay on his kitchen counter in preparation for the grill.  I spent the rest of the day examining my media consumption habits.

On paper (and in streaming media provider algorithms), Hardware looks like it was made for me.  Lemmy and Iggy Pop both make appearances.  Stanley shot the film on a relatively meager budget in 8 weeks.  The opening long shot shows a barren wasteland, and the ensuing plot is as trippy as it is dystopian.  For these and other reasons I am not privy to, Hardware consistently appears in the top of my search results when I am looking for a movie.  Finishing this film was a reminder that I am not immune to advertising, and the marketing people I spend my professional life saying “no” to have my number.

To Stanley’s credit, he warns viewers that they’re in for a fucked up ride in an opening shot focused on Chapter 13 Verse 20 from the book of Mark.  In the King James version, the verse refers to intense persecution by the Romans and reads “[a]nd except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days.”  Stanley wisely shortened the verse to “[n]o flesh shall be spared.”  Mark 13:20 is a clever and immediate reference to the fate of the characters in Hardware.

If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard of or seen this film, remember Liza Minnelli’s admonition that “money makes the world go around, the world go around, the world go around.”  Your answer starts with the CIA arming people in Afghanistan to fight the Russians.  South African born director Richard Stanley was traveling with and documenting a band of guerillas fighting Russian troops in Afghanistan when he found out someone was willing to fund Hardware.

Paul Trijbits and JoAnne Sellar, two independent London cinema owners new to film production, convinced Stanley to come to England where he realized he had to submit a real budget for the film.  Faced with a more realistic and therefore a much larger budget, Trijbits and Sellar did not give up.  Instead, they contacted a fledgling Miramax and convinced the Weinstein brothers to invest in the film.

The film barely avoided an X rating and opened to unexpected success in the United States.  Its instant profitability kept it out of general circulation for several years.  Not only were the investors arguing over the profits, the publishers of the comic Shok!, which appeared in 2000 AD (linked below), brought a successful copyright lawsuit alleging that the film copied directly from the comic.  If you’re interested in the copyright aspects of this film, the entire comic in question is linked below the trailer for the film.


Tilda Swinton!  This film is a wonderful reimagining of the french graphic novels.  Before or after watching the film, get some fish and read all three volumes.  Also, is there anyone who is not heart breakingly attracted to Tilda Swinton?  If you are indifferent, please watch Only Lovers Left Alive and then try to tell me you don’t want her to turn you.  Tilda, if you are reading this, I pledge my devotion.