The Girl With All the Gifts largely flew under the radar when it was released in 2016, but its ending leaves a lot to unpack.
The horror film, based on the novel of the same name by M.R. Carey, takes place in a grim post-apocalyptic future. Zombies, known as hungries, run rampant in this world, thanks to the mass spread of a fungal disease. But there's a hybrid second generation of young hungries that still feed on humans, while retaining their mental capabilities. These hungries attend a "school" at a military base, where a scientist named Dr. Caldwell studies them in hopes to find a cure.
After a group of hungries overrun the school, a gifted young hungry named Melanie leads her captors through London, in hopes to help find a cure for the zombie infection. It's a dangerous trip, as there's a horde of hungries at nearly every turn. Here's a breakdown of what happens in the end of The Girl With All the Gifts.
Does Dr. Caldwell Find a Cure?
Caldwell is convinced that Melanie is the key to the vaccine. The doctor was moments away from dissecting Melanie when the hungries broke into their lab. Throughout the rest of the film, Caldwell attempts to convince Melanie to sacrifice herself for the cure. The doctor is convinced that she is so close to a vaccine and that a highly intelligent specimen like Melanie is the missing piece. By the ending of The Girl With All The Gifts, Melanie almost obliges. However, she changes her mind at the last minute and runs away from Caldwell. The doctor chases her, but is captured and killed by a group of young hungries. Caldwell appeared to be humanity's best shot at a vaccine. After her death, it's safe to assume that a cure will never be found.
Why Does Melanie Unleash the Pods?
Near the end of their journey, the team notices a mass of infected bodies encircling an old tower. Caldwell shares that they have reached the next phase of the disease. Their bodies have become overgrown with the seed pods which contain the disease. There are enough pods that, should they be released, they could infect the remainder of those still spared from the disease. By the end of The Girl With All The Gifts, Caldwell nearly convinces Melanie to sacrifice herself for the cure. But as she remembers the pods, Melanie decides she doesn't want to be an experiment. She wants her kind to be the future. Melanie has seen so much cruelty from the uninfected, and sees a brighter future for everyone by simply starting over.
Why Is Helen Spared?
While Melanie, overall, has not been treated well by humans, there is one person who always showed her kindness — her teacher, Helen. Most of the humans at the facility see the young hungries as monsters or specimen. Helen sees them as people. Because of this, Melanie makes an effort to save Helen when she decides to set the tower of infected pods ablaze. The film ends with Helen alone, but perfectly safe, in a sealed medical lab. She continues to teach the young hungries, showing a little glimmer of hope for the future.
The Real Meaning of The Girl With All The Gifts Ending
Just like the best zombie movies, The Girl With All The Gifts is both about survival and human spirit. People show their true colors when they face the most dire of circumstances. The members of humanity with ill intentions did not survive — only the ones with the purest intentions made it. The Girl With All The Gifts takes a slightly different spin on this trope. In this film, the world is better off with zombies than with people. Sometimes, starting over is all people can do.