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The Constant Gardener
Region: Region 2
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Universal Pictures UK
DVD Release Date: 13 Mar 2006
Run Time: 123 minutes
The Constant Gardener is a film which was recommended to me by my daughter, and which I had the pleasure of watching this weekend. She hadn't told me anything about the film at all, so what followed was very captivating but unexpected, and which had imparted no anticipation in me of greatness or of content. I was to be very entertained, and also emotionally disturbed in many ways, as the film is not only a captivating story, but also touches on sensitive issues. I would be surprised if anyone could just watch this film on one level and not be affected by everything that the film covers.
The film was made of the book which carries the same name by John Le Carre, and it is interesting to note that the film was in the planning stage long before the book was published, as news had crept out into the production world of the content of the story.
A Brief Outline Of The Plot
Set mainly in Kenya it tells the story of a diplomat, Justin Quayle, who is an interesting character, because although his job is in international relations, he takes an almost light-hearted view of it. He is often seen tending his plants - hence the title - The Constant Gardener. His new wife however, Tessa, is far from being ambivalent to the ways of the world. She uses her relationship to uncover hidden discrepancies in the activities employed by a major pharmaceutical company within the remote villages of the region. To uncover all the complexities of the story will require a watch on your part, but I can guarantee that this film will be involving, and will certainly take you to the remote lands of East Africa.
The filming and the scenery are absolutely outstanding in this production, which was directed by a Brazilian - Fernando Meirelles. He was previously well respected for his part in the production of City of God, which was nominated for an Oscar. The production team had flown to Nairobi for a few days, and had intended to focus their filming in South Africa, where they were planning to move onto in subsequent days. However, they were so taken by the areas in Kenya that they never left other than to film in Sudan. I think my lasting memories of this film will be the scenery and the images of the people who were living around Nairobi in conditions which were so primitive and without sanitation, and yet so many had a cheerful disposition, despite horrendous adversity. The production crew liaised with film-makers in Kenya so that they accurately represented the lives of the people who live there, and this is fundamental to the credibility of the film in my opinion.
The parts played by the two central characters were outstanding. Justin played by Ralph Fiennes is portrayed superbly - he shows the right amount of interest by the character in his job, which he executes with the minimum required to perform successfully, but never goes outside his comfort zone. He really makes you see that he can perform superficially as a diplomat, skimming over sensitive issues and accepting them to be cultural. Rachel Weisz, who pays Tessa his wife, outshines him though in her superb portrayal of a woman driven by the desire for change, and the conviction to do anything that is necessary to uncover truths. This leads to some superb scenes in the film where the friction between the characters is electric.
I think in many ways this film reminds me of one of my favourite films of all times- Before The Rains. Not because of the similar story lines, as this film is about tea and spices in India, but because it has scenes of the wealthy dining together and downing alcohol in elaborate surroundings within a country torn by poverty. The difference between the western lives which are comfortable and indulgent shines through this film, as they are contrasted by the vivid images of the surrounding population who literally have nothing. I also think it is the brilliant way that the film portrays a marriage torn apart, because of the different beliefs two people have about what "is" and what can be changed.
It is not merely a drama though, it is an action packed thriller that will leave you on the edge of your seat in places. There are other characters involved, including other members of the Diplomatic Service who pad out the nonchalant contingent and who simply operate within the bounds of their job descriptions.There is a superb part played by Hubert Kounde as Arnold Bluhm, a Kenyan doctor who befriends Tessa and spends a lot of time with her as she seeks out the truth.
Reading some of the reviews of this film, I noticed something I felt had been echoed many times by others, that being the way that the scenes in Africa are filmed are rich beautiful colours. There are vibrant orange hues to almost every landscape, and sunbaked images of warm sunset shades even clothe the shanty villages that hug the towns. Even in the Sudan, where some scenes are filmed amidst horrendous unrest, images are shrouded in an intensity of colour, which contrasts to the London scenes where everything is in faded sepia, the grey concrete seems dismal and dead. It is as if there is no hope in these stone coloured walls and pavements for change or for empathy, whereas in Africa the bright colours suggest a warmth and a depth which offers possibilties.
The DVD has some excellent extras that I highly recommend including a superb interview with John Le Carre who delights in the film even though he accepts it bears little resemblance to the book, but yet still manages to capture the essence of what he felt at the time of writing. Also well worth watching are the interviews with the main characters and the director as they touch on the scene productions in depth. They explain how difficult it was to work in the seering heat of the day, and how vital it was to them that this film was real and showed life in Kenya as it is. There is also an incredible account of a conversation the director had with a major pharmaceutical company executive, which I will not elaborate on here, as I do not wish to spoil any of the DVD for those new to it, but it made my heart stop.
This film is a superb thriller which has twists and turns and which will leave you feeling disturbed in many ways by the events that you witness. It is about life on two levels - do you seek justice and campaign on behalf of those without a voice, or do you simply accept what is and keep your head low and be a Constant Gardener? The title for me has two meanings- it goes beyond the simple act of tending flowers, this symbolises a life that looks down and fails to see what is going on all around and in the distance. The film also embraces change, and reflects the way that another human can awake another, and can pull them out of their comfort zone to question and to challenge. Highly recommended.
DVD available from Amazon for £3.79 including delivery or from 0.1p plus postage for a secondhand copy.
note: also appears in part on Flixster and The Student Room
The Constant Gardener, which is based on the John le Carré novel of the same name, is ripe to be slapped with the term "Oscar bait", for it has lofty ambitions and has a very well-crafted plot that hits the right emotional buttons etc, but it's actually a very good, if uneven film on its own merits, and should keep you gripped because of its impressive performances if nothing else.
The film opens in London, where Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) falls in love with a human rights activist, Tessa (Rachel Weisz), who convinces him to go back to Africa with her where she is doing aid work. However, one day she is found dead along with the aid doctor, Arnold Bluhm (Hubert Koundé), and their driver. Quayle has to pick up the pieces and also try and work out what caused his wife to suffer this fate. From here, he puts the rest of his life on hold in order to get to the bottom of it, ultimately facing off against a drug corporation with financial interests in Africa, leading him down a very slippery slope that leads to a scintilating pay-off.
The uniform reason to watch the film is the performances: Fiennes in particular is excellent, and Weisz, in her limited screen time, is also great as the wife. Although it does move rather slowly, your patience will be rewarded. A gripping political thriller that has a substantial political commentary and an Earth-shattering ending that is quite unlike anything I've ever seen before, The Constant Gardener combines a smart plot with thrilling suspense. Although it seems to drag here and there, the crackling plot and excellent performances overcome the pacing flaws.
*This is a film only review*
The Constant Gardener is based on the book by John le Carre. Directed by the Brazillian director of City of God, Fernando Meirelles, it was released in 2005 to great critical acclaim and modest commercial success.
At the beginning of the film, British diplomat Justin Quayle (a role wonderfully underplayed by Ralph Fiennes.)discovers that his humanitarian wife Tessa (Rachel Weisz) has been murdered whilst the two of them are living and working in Kenya. Utterly griefstricken, he discovers that Tessa was working on uncovering a conspiracy regarding pharmaceutical companies and illegal testing of prototype medicines on the poor in the country. In her memory he works on gaining evidence and bringing any wrongdoing to the attention of the British government. However, this brings him into great danger and he discovers a great number of things about his wife which are shocking and upsetting in the process.
A lot of the film, particularly in the beginning is supplemented by flashbacks of earlier times. In time we get to see their first meeting and some of their most romantic and intimate moments.
I really enjoyed this film, the plot is complex but important. The acting is universally great, Weisz (who won an Oscar in 2006 for her performance) is particularly fantastic. She is utterly convincing as an independently wealthy woman whose passion and stop-at-nothing attitude when it comes to humanitarian issues is her greatest attribute but also her downfall and which threatened to destroy her personal life at any time whilst she was alive. The flashbacks and forwards are perfectly pitched and help rather than hinder the development of the plot. The ending is perfectly pitched, subtle and not overdramatic.
There are also some great performances from the supporting cast such as Danny Huston and Bill Nighy.A lot of the filming is shot in a whitewashed way with an almost glaring contrast. Kenya is shot with energy and soaring landscapes.
In essence, this is a very enjoyable film with a fascinating story to tell - raising questions about the continued plundering of the lives and resources of impoverished people by the wealthier countries in the world.a
The Constant Gardener is a conspiracy thriller based on drugs testing in South Africa, starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz as a married couple, one of whom is a british diplomat, the other a woman determined to help those who need it most, when she is killed in Africa Justin (Fiennes) decides to take matters into his own hands to uncover the conspiracy and the truth about his wifes murder.
The plot is unique and one that I do like, a conspiracy needs uncovered, the 2 people who were close have been killed and now it's up to someone, someone who had no real interest in the trials to uncover the mystery regarding the deaths of hundreds of innocent Africans and that of his wife. The story is very good, the only gripe I have with the film is the length of it, I have no idea how long it is but it felt like a lifetime, so either this film is too long or it seems too long, I think the former is true and it definatly over stays it's welcome. Although the ending is very good.
The acting is superb, having only seen Fiennes in one film before (In Bruges) I expected a similar performance, and we got one, a brilliant performance in a role completley different to that he plays in In Bruges. Weisz is a famous actress made famous from films such as The Mummy, she plays a much tougher role this time around but fills it out superbly. The support from numerous well known actors, not least Peter Posthwaite among them. The special features on the dvd were very good, there was 2 similar makings of featurettes as well as a feature on the way it was adapted from the book that it was originally. I was impressed with the special features, they were quite long features as well and definatly added to the film as a whole.
I thought the film was pretty good, had the film been shorter it would have gone down much better with me I think, after a while it started to grate how slowly things were moving despite knowing what needed to happen, the 3rd quarter of the film dragged endlessley and ended up making me want the film to end, other than that however the film was very good, a good stroy with superb acting.
*PLease note this is a film only review*
Friday night is often DVD night in our house and this time it was my husband's turn to choose. Our daughters had bought him The Constant Gardener for Father's Day (at a bargain price of £2 from WH Smith) but we had not yet got round to watching the film so that was his choice. I did not really know anything about the film, apart from the fact that it is based on a book by John Le Carre (who has a certain pedigree) so I had no idea what to expect. I was not disappointed at all and would even go as far as to say that I loved the film and was completely engrossed for all of its two hours and three minutes running time!
The film was made in 2005 and stars Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, It tells the story of Justin Quale, a High-Commissioner delegee in Africa, and his wife Tessa. Tessa is an activist who becomes suspicious about the behaviour of a certain pharmaceutical company and some of its more unethical practices. Before she is able to expose what she has found out, she is found brutally murdered. Is it just a random attack by bandits, a crime of passion by Tessa's supposed lover, or something much more sinister altogether? Justin is determined to find out the truth about what happened to his wife but discovers that beaurocracy constrains him at every term. The action becomes more and more intense as Justin comes closer to unearthing the truth and moves dramatically towards its climax. I won't reveal any more about the plot but I will tell you that there are some real 'edge of your seat' moments.
I really enjoyed this film and my interest did not wane for a second even though the plot was quite complicated in places. I thought it was an excellent story with enough twists and turns to keep me guessing and the action was well paced throughout. There is a mixture of scenes in the present and flashbacks which works well in filling in some of the mysteries around Tessa.
Some of the African scenery is also absolutely stunning in this film. However, there is also a stark contrast between this and the total poverty of the shanty towns that Tessa visits and sees families queuing for drugs. Also, there is some amazing background music, ranging from the very upbeat to the totally sombre. This music all really reflects the varying moods of the film well.
I thought that the performances of both Ralph Fienes and Rachel Weisz were superb and there was a tangible chemistry between them. Even though Tessa dies at the beginning of the film, we do really get to know her character well through all the flashbacks. I loved her zest for life which came through very strongly and she contrasted well with her more serious, quiet husband with a love for gardening (hence the title of The Constant Gardener). All the other performances were very good although it was a cast virtually unknown to me apart from Bill Nighy who plays a ruthless British government minister Bernard Pellegrin. I always enjoy his performances and this was no exception.
Overall this is an excellent film. It has an exciting well paced plot and excellent acting and I thoroughly recommend it. I would warn you though that there are one or two quite brutal scenes which make quite unpleasant viewing and which is why the film has its 15 rating.
The DVD is currently available on Amazon for only £2.98.
Created in 2005 from a Graham Greene novel, this follows many of his previous novels, i.e, world diplomacy and diplomats out of their depth in other countries. The Constant Gardner is a 2005 adapatation of one of these novels, directed by Fernando Meirelles the director of City of God. Set in Kenya it updates the original story to the present day. Justin Quayle is a diplomat sent to Kenya. Prior to his departure he meets and falls in love with the feisty activist Tessa, she wants to go with him and they marry. What follows is the pregnant Tessa loses her pregnancy and then continues her political activism pushed strongly by her beliefs and sense of loss. Justin allows her to continue with her priorites but has fears she may be having an affair and that she is only with him because of where he is.
Tessa gets out of her depth and is found dead, the main crux of the film follows Justin a good man who has always worked within the system as he works outside of this to discover who killed his wife and why. The film is thrilling it moves around at points, but this works to the stories advantage. The film is visually stunning the shots are powerful, the colour is immense. The story is wonderful and follows a career diplomat as he comes to terms with the realisation that some things are more important than the system.
Weisz is feisty and unpredicatable as Tessa, she is a force of nature in this film, she is willing to do anything to make the world better and you feel sorry for Justin when you realise he will never be her priority and that she both loves and Loathes Justin at moments due to who he is and what he is, she follows her conscience whilst Justin follows what should be done. Fiennes is excellent as the subdued and predictable Justin, the pain he holds in and then releases in his investigation is a real draw, these are two exceptional performances in a wonderfully written well built story, the pace and visuals are perfect, the direction is excellent and updates this classic story really well. There is tension at various points and by the end you are immersed in this tale.
Ralph Fiennes ... Justin Quayle
Rachel Weisz ... Tessa Quayle
Hubert Koundé ... Dr. Arnold Bluhm
Danny Huston ... Sandy Woodrow
Daniele Harford ... Miriam
Packson Ngugi ... Officer in Morgue
Damaris Itenyo Agweyu ... Jomo's Wife
Bernard Otieno Oduor ... Jomo
Gerard McSorley ... Sir Kenneth 'Kenny' Curtiss
Bill Nighy ... Sir Bernard Pellegrin
Keith Pearson ... Porter Coleridge
John Sibi-Okumu ... Dr. Joshua Ngaba
Donald Sumpter ... Tim Donohue
Archie Panjabi ... Ghita Pearson
Nick Reding ... Crick
This is a gritty hard hitting drama about a politician living in kenya,although the diplimat is a quiet man himself oppisites attract and he marries a beautiful woman who is driven to stand up for her rights and that of others ,she discovers some intresting information about a drug given to the poor people of kenya and places a dangerous game to uncover the truth,her convoy is attacked and she is killed which drives her husband to investigate the plot himself puttig himself and everyone around him in danger but turning him from a quiet unadventrous man into the bravest kind of all.
This film is so well done even someone like me who isnt into politics can enjoy this film,its beautifully shot and amazingly acted ,as the story is told by the diplomat looking back on what has happened,its heartwarming and its sad but genuinely such a good film.it has one several oscars and truely is worth a watch if only the once.
Rated 15 its 129 minutes long and can be found on amazon for £0.39
A decent storyline about pharamaceutical companies and their effect in Africa is the backdrop for this quite good, but depressing film. I thought, because of the cast list, the reviews of the book and the director that this would be a really excellent film to watch.
When Fiennes wife is killed after learning the truth about some drug trials, he tries to find out the truth about...(read more) her death and the secret behind it all. Fiennes is pretty good in his role as the diminuative diplomat and comes across well as the 'hero'. Weisz is Weisz, no more, no less. The film has some good suppoting roles as well, particularly some of the African actors as well as English stalworts like Nighy and Postelthwaite.
However, the film is quite depressing and slow at times. The direction and cinematography is excellent, but in the end just wasn't my cup of tea.
The main reason I went to see this movie at the cinemas was the location - Africa. I am really interested in the poverty issue and the politics behind international aid and having seen a documentary prior to the films release showing some on-location scenes using real local people, i knew i had to go and see this on the big screen.
As well as being beautifully shot, yet also feeling very real, this film puts the spotlight on some of the hurrendous situations that starving, poor african people go through - something that we are used to only seeing on the news. so to see it as part of a film, albeit one with a fictional story, was very refreshing.
its a film that requires a lot of concentration - the scenes are not chronological, the action keeps going back and forth between european countries and africa, and there are some interesting twists in the plot.
its a love story that makes a political point and shows up the corruption that lies behind an imperialistic global company that exploits african people.
it would be wrong to reveal the details of the plot, but lets just say that the lack of chronolgy means that a very important event occurs at the beginning when, had it been edited chronologically, this would not be revealed until well into the film.
well worth seeing if you are interested in films that make political statements, but also if you like that deal with heartbreaking relationships. the balance between the two works extremely well in this film and rachel weisz deserved the oscar she won for her role.
Based upon a book written in 2001 by John le Carré The Constant Gardner is a conspiracy film drama. The film suggests corruption in the pharmaceutical industry.
Main players are
Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) an unassuming, shy and garden loving British diplomat
Tessa Quayle (Rachel Weisz) a feisty campaigner.
An unlikely friendship develops between the two, they marry and when he is posted to East Africa she accompanies him there, she takes up cause of local people and one day is found brutally murdered.
Justin traumatised by the loss of his wife leaves work and begins detective work to find the motivation behind her killing. All the clues are leading to big business protecting its profit margins.
The film is beautifully shot in deprived areas and in lovely countryside. The story is strong in romance and one man's grief on loss of the woman he loved very much. It is a multi Oscar winning film and has had positive praises.
I found it to be a good film to watch. The actors do a good job. The story is interesting. I think the film doesn't ask the big question about drug companies and the way they deal with third world countries. So my overall impression is great romance film but not controversial enough to be a strong conspiracy movie.
Year of Production: 2005
After having vague memories of being impressed and upset around the watching of this film first time, i thought i would have another look at it when i saw it cheap in the sales. First thing i noticed is that the film is rather long. However theis doesnt seem to be a problem as it keeps you griped with the constant wondering of what happened. This aside it can be one film that is difficult to watch. There are those you can watch, and not that much attention is needed to be enjoyed. Then there are the films that you have to actually sit down and watch. This is one of the latter. I am now feeling rather exaused after watching this, but fulfilled as well. One point that i would have to make, is that rather then being left feeling sad, or upset, i was more depressed. The story seemed more depressing then sad, but still an emotional one. One of the main factors to this is the guilt insued by the onslaught of shots of Africa that could have easilly come from a comic relief video. The film features some stunning scenery and superb acting. It is one that certinally tugs at the heart strings, however it does seem to try a little to hard, and in such makes you more depressed then sad. This aside it is a well made film and one worth a watch, especially now when you can get it cheap.
The Constant Gardner is film based on John Le Carré's best selling novel.
The film begins close to the end of story
quiet British diplomat Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) says farewell to his activist wife Tessa (Rachel Weisz) and her friend Dr. Arnold Bluhm, they are visiting a remote corner of Kenya.
Later Justin is told by fellow diplomat at the British embassy Sandy Woodrow (Danny Huston) about the death of Tessa and her driver. The doctor she is travelling with has gone missing. Justin sets about investigating the death of his wife. He finds the reason behind her death and this puts his life in danger.
The Costant Gardener gets a bit constant at 2 hours and 8 minutes and it is not everyones cup of tea. The pace of the film is slow and I don't think Weisz and Fiennes don't make great romantic couple and don't convince either.
The film was shot mostly on location in Kenya, this has an authentic feel and improves the film.
Things may move slow moving but the film is gripping and intelligent and the plot is true to things that happen in real life. Conspiracy that leads to the death of Tessa and her driver has happened before and will happen in the future. The film is not based on true events but the practice of giant businesses are true.
I liked the film because of splendid settings some of ghetto shots are not nice. Film has a strong social message as well.
The Contstant Gardener is a thriller, love story and a film that warns about exploitation of poor countries.
The film is based on best-selling John le Carré novel.
Activist Tessa Quayle (Rachel Weisz) is found brutally murdered in rural Kenya. She was married to Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes). A very quiet man.
After the death of Tess, Quayle searches for answers and at the same time reflects on life with her. This is told in flashbacks.
I watched this film twice because it is very good. It has a moral message. Acting is solid. Backdrop of beautiful Kenya is amazing.
A very well made film. I like it very much.
I liked Tess and I liked the way Quayle comes out of shell to investigate her death despite dangers.
Having worked in a British Embassy abroad and knowing that this film was based around a British High Commission in Kenya, I have wanted to see this film for quite some time. I've read differing reviews about it; it seems to be one of those films that people either really like or hate, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. However, I've not yet read a book by John le Carre (who wrote the original novel on which this film is based) that I haven't enjoyed, so I guessed that I would enjoy the story at least. What I found was indeed an excellent story, highlighted by some magnificent cinematography. Starring an actor that I have a great deal of time for, this film should have been superb; unfortunately, there were one or two things that let it down.
The film begins with British diplomat, Justin, being told that his wife, Tessa, has gone missing during a trip and a body, believed to be hers, has been found. A visit to the morgue is enough to confirm this. Unfortunately Justin, who had only been married to Tessa for a short time, finds things amongst her papers that lead him to believe that his wife may not have been the simple aid worker that she led him to believe she was. The story then skips back in time to explain how the couple met. Justin is about to be sent on a posting to Kenya when he meets the rather bolshie Tessa at a conference. He is attracted to her, but is still surprised when she asks him to take her with him to Kenya. However, the couple marry and Tessa quickly becomes pregnant.
Despite her pregnancy, Tessa is still very involved with her work with women and children and their health. Along with a colleague, Arnold, she spends hours wandering the streets in the midday heat; then spends hours at night locked in her study working. She refuses to share what she is doing with Justin. After her death, Justin discovers that she has been working to try to prove the harm that foreign pharmaceutical companies are doing in Africa by providing drugs at high prices for those suffering from Aids and tuberculosis. Was her death a coincidence? Or was her work causing problems for certain people, which led to her death? Justin's investigations uncover facts that even he wasn't expecting to find.
I am a great fan of Ralph Fiennes, who plays Justin. In my experience, he rarely puts a foot wrong. I thought he did well in this film. Justin is a rather dry diplomat who enjoys gardening and spends most of his life being far removed from reality. Whereas this is the stereotype of a diplomat and I don't like stereotypes, it does have to be said that I've met a fair few that fit this mould perfectly - although I think it has more to do with being upper class than anything else. His character was fairly uninspiring during the first half of the film; his complete lack of superficial grief at his wife's death made me want to slap him. However, he did grow along with the film and when he becomes tied up with Tessa's work, his real acting skills come to the fore and he does a damn good job of the role.
I initially thought that we wouldn't see much of Rachel Weisz as Tessa; an easy assumption to make as she is dead when the film begins. However, through flashbacks we do come to know her character quite well. The way the film is edited though, we don't really have the chance to get into her character and apart from looking beautiful, being stroppy and acting mysteriously, there isn't much more that can be said about her. She wasn't bad, there just wasn't anything special about her. However, this is as likely to be because of harsh editing as it is her acting.
A mention must go to Pete Postlethwaite of Brassed Off fame, who plays Dr. Lorbeer. I didn't recognise him at all, but he managed to give a very convincing performance of a man determined to save the lives of as many Africans as he can. Postlethwaite is a very talented actor who deserves far more fame than he has ever achieved.
The one thing that let the whole film down for me was the relationship between Justin and Tessa. I just didn't get it. Although they hadn't been married all that long by the time that Tessa died, there was still a remarkable lack of romance or even liking between the two. As the film progresses, we do see a lot of romantic encounters between them, but I just didn't find them realistic. When you think that the whole premise of the film is based on Justin's feelings for his wife and his desire to find out what may have killed her, this seems a little odd. Again, it may not be so much the acting, but the editing of the film. Whatever the reason, this really let the film down for me.
Directed by Fernando Meirelles, I think that it could have been done better. The film was made up of a lot of flashbacks, with Justin remembering things that had happened with Tessa, along with the story of his investigation into her death. At times, these flashbacks, although understandable, were too brief to make much sense and could have been left for just a little longer to make the story more palpable. I also think that the lack of passion between Fiennes and Weisz may well have been down to him rather than their acting.
On the plus side, the cinematography was fantastic. I really enjoyed the shots of the Kenyan people and their brightly coloured clothes. There was no hiding the poverty, but it was touchingly and naturally filmed, as if the people involved didn't have any idea that they were being filmed - maybe they didn't, I don't know. I also loved the shots of the African landscape, particularly those taken from above. I have never been to Africa, but having seen this film, I am beginning to understand what I have been missing.
Story-wise, I thought it was excellent. The damage that pharmaceutical companies do in Africa in particular has long been a topical issue, but is one that a lot of people ignore, simply because it is going on in another country and they feel they can't do anything about it anyway. However, I believe that being aware is part of the way towards actually getting something done and this film certainly raises people's awareness.
Whereas many films peter out before the end, this one went out with a bang. The ending was totally unexpected for me, and although the reason for the way it ended was not totally believable, it certainly meant that the film ended on a high.
This isn't the best film I have ever seen, but it was pretty good. It is a combination of a thriller and an action film, but it is different from your average story and it certainly kept me intrigued all the way through. I certainly think it was one of last year's better films and if you haven't yet seen it, then I suggest that you do, bearing in mind that some scenes are distressing and that it is probably inappropriate for children. Recommended.
The DVD is available from play.com for £4.99.
Running time: 2 hours, 3 minutes
In Africa there are no murders, only regrettable deaths.
The Constant Gardener is an adaptation of a John Le Carré novel, a thrilling adventure of immense social relevance which highlights commercial exploitation and political corruption in Africa, whilst simultaneously celebrating the astounding beauty of the landscape, culture and people. The political focus of this movie is cleverly interwoven with the struggle of a British diplomat to discover the truth behind his wifes murder, to learn who she really was, and to realise a greater love and trust in her than he ever had when she was alive.
The Main Cast
Ralph Fiennes ...Justin Quayle
Rachel Weisz ...Tessa Quayle
Hubert Koundé ...Arnold Bluhm
Danny Huston ...Sandy Woodrow
Bill Nighy ...Sir Bernard Pellegrin
Donald Sumpter ...Tim Donohue
Archie Panjabi ...Ghita Pearson
Nick Reding ...Crick
Gerard McSorley ...Sir Kenneth Curtiss
Juliet Aubrey ...Gloria Woodrow
Jacqueline Maribe ...Wanza Kiluhu
Donald Apiyo ...Kioko
Pete Postlethwaite ...Lorbeer
Anneke Kim Sarnau ...Birgit
Richard McCabe ...Arthur Hammond
Rupert Simonian ...Guido Hammond
Director : Fernando Meirelles (City of God)
The film opens with a scene that could sum up the whole essence of the movie. A van lays corrupted on its side, a vision of brutality and destruction, while behind a flock of flamingos take flight from the stunning mineral scorched coastline. Justin Quayle (Feinnes), an Aid Effectiveness official with the British High Commission in Nairobi, is informed that his wife Tessa (Weisz) has been discovered dead in Northern Kenya whilst travelling with a black doctor widely assumed to be her lover. Quayles response, Good of you to tell me, it cant have been easy for you. immediately illustrates his character - a shy, mild-mannered man who finds it hard to express himself and his emotions, and is so diplomatic in the true meaning of the word he makes a poor diplomat in the political sense. He reflects on his relationship with his wife, a forceful, opinionated, passionate, courageous woman, someone highly critical of British foreign policy, who became an embarrassment and dangerous threat to the British governments representatives in Kenya. Justin and Tessa were complete opposites, he positively conventional, her revolutionary, yet there was an overwhelming connection between them that remained after her death.
In Nairobi, Tessa worked closely with Dr Arnold Bluhm in the township of Kibera, promoting health amongst the underprivileged. Together they discover that a multi-national pharmaceutical company is offering free-AIDS tests to entice the poverty-stricken Africans into becoming unwitting guinea pigs for a rigged trial of a drug treatment for multi-resistant TB. Dypraxa has known detrimental and even fatal side effects, but would be too costly and time consuming to redesign, a secret complexly integrated into the highest levels of international politics, which eventually leads to their brutal murders. Instead of discretely lying down and excepting the web of deceit surrounding Tessas murder as the High Commission expect, Justin makes it his sole purpose to find out how and why his wife died, eventually breaking through the lies to unearth the horrific truth, regaining his faith in Tessa, and finding release in a beautifully serene ending to the movie.
The title relates to Justins passion for horticulture which is a constant theme through the film. The fashion in which he gently packs his seedlings to travel with him before dealing with the emotional strain of determining his lovers intentions, the way he is left outside gardening while Tessa is dedicated to her secret life with Bluhm, the manner in which he finally begins to grieve through clearing Tessas bedraggled London garden symbolising the doubts he had in her clearing from his mind, and ultimately the way he digs for information to discover the truth behind his wifes murder.
This story is exceptionally well told and suitably paced to be riveting to the very end. The background exposé regarding political corruption and exploitation of the powerless makes this a great thriller, but the unfolding of the counter-story is even more interesting. Tessas character is masterfully disguised and skilfully unravelled, giving the viewer plenty of time to make incorrect assumptions, develop unsubstantiated prejudices against her and be manipulated by unreliable leads, and the audience gets to learn who Tessa really was in time with her questioning husband. Feinnes is exceptionally well suited in the role, able to extract a myriad of responses from the viewer with the merest of expressions, and Weisz is at the best I have ever seen her in any movie.
The portrayal of African life and society in this film is unusually positive for a mainstream movie and does not wallow in the obvious poverty, but shows the resolve and enterprising nature of the African people. It was filmed on location in various parts of Kenya and the Sudan, in the shanty towns, villages, and rural communities using local tribal people and their homes. This unique window into black Kenyan culture and customs is coupled with superb cinematography, revealing the colour and diversity of the breath-takingly beautiful landscape in all its aesthetic finery. The general direction of the film is distinctly stylistic. The cameras are not static but walked around, moving the viewer with the action, the shots are stark, with extreme close-ups, making the story all the more involving and absorbing.
The Constant Gardener is a draining journey of secrets and lies which touches on many sensitive current issues - race relations and colonial overhang in Kenya, Western manipulation of helpless people, blatant corruption in the Kenyan government, discreet exploitative corruption in the British government - and which poses thought-provoking questions to the viewer, such as the effectiveness of the Wests humanitarian action in Africa, the exploitation of the masses by profit hungry drug companies ( right up there with arms dealers. - Dr. Lorbeer on pharmaceutical companies that donate out of date drugs to the disposable patients of Africa to gain tax breaks) and how far the British government will go to protect national commercial interests.
There are so many subtle twists and turns to this movie, I was riveted to the end, and judging by the number of gasps and utterances so were the rest of the cinema-goers. The Constant Gardener is an absorbing, compelling film that lingers on the mind for days afterwards.
Rating - 15
Length - 129 minutes
For more information see theconstantgardener.com, although I found this a poorly designed and uninformative website.
© 2005 (2006) V.L. Collyer
The Constant Gardener is the kind of thriller that hasn't been seen since the 1970s: Smart, politically complex, cinematically adventurous, genuinely thrilling and even heartbreaking. Mild diplomat Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes, The English Patient, Schindler's List) has a loose cannon of a wife named Tessa (Rachel Weisz, The Shape of Things, The Mummy), who's digging into the dirty doings of a major pharmaceutical company in Kenya. Her brutal murder forces Justin to continue her investigation down some deadly avenues. This simple plot description doesn't capture the rich texture and slippery, sinuous movement of The Constant Gardener, superbly directed by Fernando Meirelles (Oscar-nominated for his first film, City of God). Shifting back and forth in time, the movie skillfully captures the engaging romance between Justin and Tessa (Fiennes shows considerably more chemistry with Weisz than he had with Jennifer Lopez in Maid in Manhattan) and builds a vivid, gripping, and all-too-justified paranoia. And on top of it all, the movie is beautiful, due to both its incredible shots of the African landscape (which at times is haunting and unearthly) and the gorgeous cinematography. Featuring an all-around excellent cast, including Bill Nighy (Love Actually), Pete Postlethwaite (In the Name of the Father), and Danny Huston (Silver City).--Bret Fetzer