By Jorge Ignacio Castillo
The Girl with All the Gifts (UK, 2016): Between The Walking Dead and all the low-rent undead flicks, it’s hard to give a fresh twist to the zombie subgenre. The Girl with All the Gifts does its darndest to achieve it, but the surplus of ideas ends up hurting the outcome.
The film opens intriguingly enough. A group of inoffensive-looking children are treated like Hannibal Lecter by an overzealous military unit. One of the kids is the dependably polite Melanie (newcomer Sennia Nanua), who hangs pictures of a cat on her wall when no one is looking. Slowly we come to realize the children are partially zombified, but retain a semblance of humanity.
The matter of the kids’ right to be treated as people is one of the many issues the movie hints at, but doesn’t develop (likely, the novel that inspired the film is more thorough). One element I haven’t seen in other zombie movies is the suggestion that mankind is screwed anyway and we should just let it happen.
The Girl with All the Gifts may have been better suited for a TV series. As a feature, too much info falls through the cracks. Two stars.
Ma' Rosa (Philippines, 2016): I was not familiar with the filmography of Philippines most noteworthy filmmaker, Brillante Mendoza. Getting introduced to his work through Ma’ Rosa is akin to being thrown into the deep end of the pool: Gritty, relentless and depressing.
The drama follows 24 hours in the life of Rosa, a convenience store owner/crack dealer. Life in poverty has hardened the mother of three, and her relationship with her kin is punctuated by abuse. This day in particular her store is raided by the police, and the only way she can escape time in the clink is by ratting out her provider and put together a considerable amount for her “bail” (bribe).
The movie revolves around Rosa, but takes breaks to follow her children as they try to get the money in heartbreaking sequences. Also, we get to see the utterly corrupt police force try to make the most of the arrest (financially, that is). Brillante Mendoza employs a visual style very similar to late-period Michael Mann (handheld HD video), only in this scenario is more appropriate than say Miami Vice. Ma’ Rosa just looks chaotic, but has structural clarity and purpose. Four stars.
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