[Review] The Last Girl: The one who has all the gifts

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Winner of the Audience Prize in Gerardmer, The Last Girl, which comes out on June 28, tries to bring something new to a genre that has been particularly explored in recent …

Winner of the Audience Prize in Gerardmer , The Last Girl , which comes out on June 28, tries to bring something new to a genre that has been particularly explored for a few years. But can we still be innovative with zombies?

Without following the frenetic pace of Marvel super heroes, zombie films have been swarming for several years now. Feature films, series, comics, the living dead can be eaten with all sauces even if it means becoming indigestible. The release of The Last Girl is therefore a form of challenge for its director, Colm McCarthy, who has however already cut his teeth on famous series like Peaky Blinders or Sherlock . Confident, the Briton based himself on a bestseller by surrounding himself with its author Mike Carey.

We discover the fate of Melanie, a gifted young girl affected by a virus that turns people into living dead, and whose effects she seems to be able to control. Transformed into a guinea pig with other children, she takes advantage of a zombie attack to escape and discover the outside world. An outing that will teach her a lot about herself.

From the first minutes, the story intentionally retains a form of mystery as to the exact situation of the infection that has affected the planet. A good way to avoid the endless narrative prologue on the collapse of humanity. McCarthy wants to disturb with an initial situation that the viewer is not used to. The visual treatment of children refers to those of dangerous adult criminals, and contrasts with their apparent gentleness. A feeling of injustice arises from this contrast, quickly counterbalanced by the discovery of a disease that makes them potentially dangerous. Quite skilfully, the director therefore manages to create a staging based on an astonishing paradox.

Once on track, the film draws on credentials that many viewers should recognize. The English countryside, which suddenly became very dangerous, evokes in particular 28 days later . The attacks of the infected also retain the same energy as in Danny Boyle. Like his British counterpart, McCarthy stuns the viewer with a wobbly camera and fast, visceral action. The heart of the film therefore oscillates between intense scenes and reflection, and prevents the viewer from getting too lost despite a slight loss of rhythm before the final act. The soundtrack, provided by Cristobal Tapia de Veer (already heard on the excellent series Utopia ) gives a real aura of mystery to these quieter moments.

The character of Melanie, astonishing Sennia Nanua, evolves in parallel between the infected and the survivors. Like Ellie in The Last of Us , she gives a real scale to the story. Its special status allows it to overcome the duality between the characters and what is related to their enemies. She alone is the guarantor of the film’s originality and prevents it from stagnating in the clich├ęs of this cinematographic sub-genre.

She finds an interesting echo with Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton), who seems to be the only one who still considers her as a young girl. The rest of the cast, played by Glenn Close and Paddy Considine, do not demerit. Respectively doctor and soldier, they represent the more rational side of the human being, but would have benefited from being a little more nuanced.

McCarthy follows the plot of the book with a certain application, and offers a convincing cinematic counterpart to the various key passages in the book. This is particularly the case for the atypical epilogue, which prefers to reinvent the human race rather than destroy it. On the other hand, it is less conclusive when the staging presents the zombies as a wobbly ersatz Neanderthal. But do not sulk our pleasure, The Last Girl dares, and that is the most important.

The zombie movie has come a long way and The Last Girl is proof of that. If the course of the film oscillates a little too classic between 28 days later , The Road or The Last of Us , the epilogue constitutes the real originality of McCarthy’s work. Supported by a solid cast, the feature film offers rather lively entertainment, and even offers to skillfully question our relationship to humanity. Refreshing.