The Constant Gardener (2005) Poster

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3-in-1 Film: Romance, Thriller, and Social Realism!
lavatch1 September 2005
"The Constant Gardener" seeks to juggle three film styles—the romance, the thriller, and provocative social realism. On all three levels, the film succeeds, especially with the latter.

Much credit should go to director Fernando Meirelles, who has synthesized a virtual textbook of different film techniques. The uses of set-ups, location filming, lenses, film editing, and close-ups were simply dazzling. While the panoramic scenes of the African landscape were breathtaking, there was a starkly contrasting approach to the close-ups in the scenes in the city. The jittery, hand-held camera sequences added to the dramatic tension and underscored the urgency of coming to terms with poverty and disease.

The romantic portion of the film was anchored by the two characters played by Ralph Fiennes (Justin) and Rachel Weisz (Tessa). Their first meeting was dynamically presented as Tessa was a social activist heckling Justin as he was making a political speech. When the hall was cleared, however, it was Justin who was actually comforting Tessa after her outburst. The juxtaposition of the placid, passive Justin versus the fervent, hyper-kinetic Tessa was brilliantly established in that opening scene.

The strands of thriller and social realism are inextricably tied together in the film. As a whodunit, "The Constant Gardener" seeks to uncover what actually happened to Justin and Tessa on their African journey. At the same time, the main culprit that emerges is the heavy hand of greed as the pharmaceutical companies exploit helpless victims of tuberculosis for the purpose of testing and marketing an experimental drug. At one point in the film, it is disclosed to Justin that the pharmaceutical industry is no different than "arms dealers."

Another British film entitled "The Girl in the Café" appeared recently on American cable television. That gem of a film is a low-budget version of "The Constant Gardener." Both films seek to raise consciousness about the tragedy of world hunger and disease. The title of "The Constant Gardener" is an important one because of the time and care taken by Justin in his garden both at work and at home. In the process, however, he has ignored the urgent pleas of his wife, and he has lost touch with the world crisis to which he is arguably a contributor.

The eighteenth-century French writer Voltaire ended his famous novel "Candide" with the slogan "One must cultivate one's garden." This film would appear to suggest that instead of tending our gardens, we need to follow the lead of Justin and Rachel and see how we all might work to help others right now.
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Rachel Weisz truly gives an Oscar worthy performance.
firstcallandy10 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Crisp and heartfelt thriller that gives you the right shot in the arm with an Oscar caliber performance by Rachel Weisz and an equally Oscar worthy performance by Ralph Fiennes. This is a film about the horrors of big business and the way they are willing to experiment on the poor to achieve their goals. Rachel Weisz plays Tessa, A feisty activist who uncovers a conspiracy by a pharmacy company to test experimental drugs on the poor natives of Africa. She then tries to fight them and expose the conspiracy until she is brutally murdered. Her husband, a quite diplomat then begins to take up her cause and try to give his departed wife justice while trying to uncover the hard truth of what is going on.

Fernando Meirelles Follow up his masterpiece ":City of God" with an equally satisfying journey of self-discovery, love and Justice. Ralph Fiennes owns the role of Justin and he takes you into the center this thrilling journey and into the center of his soul as well. The real showstopper here is the performance of Rachel Weisz, who gives the right balance of self-righteousness, heart and determination with her role. Weisz makes you believe in the film and makes you equally as determine as Justin and she was in uncovering the conspiracy and uncovering the true about what had happen to her.

This is one of the best films of the year and if there is any justice in the world, this baby would be nominated to the hill with Oscars and Rachel Weisz would get one as well because her performance is easily the best performance of any actor we have had all this year.
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Thought Provoking and Beautifully Stirring Political Potboiler
DaveTheNovelist6 September 2005
Ralph Fiennes stars as a British diplomat whose complacency is challenged when he is forced into a soul searching quest for the reasons behind the tragic death of his activist wife (Rachel Weisz) that uncovers a sinister pharmaceutical company in cahoots with British and Kenyan governments testing a new TB drug on expendable HIV+ Africans.

Fiennes gives his most humanistic and endearing performance ever, perhaps even topping his Oscar nominated turns in "Schindler's List" and "The English Patient." Rachel Weisz is an illuminating revelation, turning in the performance of her career. Her character develops and becomes even more compelling after she dies and we learn her secrets through expertly paced flashbacks. Director Fernando Meirelles takes the amazing style he honed with "City of God" and adds a heart with "The Constant Gardener," a big heart that bleeds a beautiful cinematic poeticism onto the screen.

This film truly rewards its audience as it works on so many levels. Like this year's earlier word-of-mouth and hot-button issue sleeper, "Crash," you won't be able to stop talking about it after you leave the theater. The politics here are engaging and bound to stir up even the most complacent viewer. What's even more amazing is that all of the timely political discourse and subsequent thriller aspects of the film (courtesy of the source material, John Le Carre's novel) are wrapped up in a timeless romance. We the audience join Fiennes on his journey, and we rediscover the love story between he and his wife that anchors the film in a poetic realism usually reserved for movies with much less on their minds.

To top it off, it's all delivered in the maddeningly genius Meirelles style that took critics and audiences by storm in his debut "City of God". We have the shaky hand-held camera darting through vibrant and colorful third-world locales juxtaposed with jaw-droppingly gorgeous aerial photography of Africa in all its blazing glory. Meirelles again shows us he is a true artist willing to show both the shocking beauty and abject horror of the people and places that populate his films. Again he delivers a message that people are doing horrible things to other people the world over (be it in the form of wishy-washy governments turning a blind eye, greedy corporations putting a price tag on a human life, local thugs preying on the misfortune of their neighbors, or friends betraying friends). With "City of God" he seemed to be saying the only hope is to document it. With "The Constant Gardener" he makes that argument again and takes it one brilliant step forward. We may not be able to stop a war or a huge global injustice, but we do have the power to help one person at a time. It takes a courageous film to make such a statement, and a brilliant film-maker to deliver it, and that's just what "The Constant Gardener" does.
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Beautiful, Haunting and mesmerizing
marylives31 August 2005
Great romantic thrill ride that is made even more special by the performances of Rachel Weisz and Ralph Fiennes, who both give this adaptation of the John Le Carre book a real sense of beauty, dignity and grace with their on target performances. Weisz is perfection as Tessa Qualye, a civil rights activist who is murdered for trying to bring awareness of their illegal practices on the poor natives of an African village. Weisz gives her character a self-righteous drive that is made poignant by her determination and sheer will and she also makes her character human, not a stereotype, which makes her performance the more real. Ralph Finnes plays her grieving husband Justin, who takes up her cause and begins to lean of how wonderful his wife really was and what he missed during the time she was alive. His haunted performance is in my opinion his best ever and is the driving point of this haunting odyssey of justice, lost and self sacrifice. Rachel Weisz and Ralph Fiennes both deserve Oscar nominations for their superb performances and Fernando Meirelles deserves one as well for his superb direction that puts you smack in the middle of the story that is unfolding right in front of you.

Hands down, the best film of the year so far.
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Meirelles, Weisz and Fiennes make a modern political masterpiece.
lovemoreself31 August 2005
Intelligent and moving political thriller that should be held right up there with "All The Presidents Men" and "The Killing Fields " as one of the best political thrillers ever made. Fernando Meirelles tops his last directional effort with a thriller that is moving, scary and down right forthright in it's views of big companies gone wrong and the horrors that they are willing to inflect on others for the sake of profit. Rachel Weisz and Ralph Fiennes give career best performances in this film and that's a huge compliment considering the fact that they are good in almost everything they do, even in bad movies. Weisz is strong willed and obsessive and Fiennes is determine and endearing and both of them compliment each other with there destine to be award winning chemistry and acting chops. The director compliments both of them with a view of Africa that is rarely seen in film and a sense of reality that is only found in real life.

Rachel Weisz, Ralph Fiennes and Fernando Meirelles all should be honored at award season for their amazing efforts in this film because as of right now, this is with out a doubt the film to beat come Oscar time.
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A compelling love story, very original… and an intriguing drama with a flavor of reality…
Nazi_Fighter_David12 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The movie opens with a genteel British diplomat whose hobby provides the title, falling for a fiery human-rights activist Tessa (Rachel Weisz), after she harasses him during a speech…They're soon married, and she follows him on a placement to Kenya…

There, Justin (Ralph Fiennes) becomes increasingly uncomfortable with Tessa's strange relationship with Arnold Bluhm (Hubert Koundé), a black physician, doing…well, he's not sure what…

Suspicion of her brutal assassination soon falls on her confidant Bluhm as he was the last one seen with her, and he's now missing…

Justin's journey for answers takes him on a tragic odyssey fraught with mystery and peril… Haunted by memories, Justin undergoes a personality change to become more assertive when he uncovers a huge conspiracy that will stop at nothing even to make money at the expense of helpless Africans, who can't fight their own fight…

The film is visually brilliant, and the best aspect of it, is the murder mystery… Is Tessa really in love with Justin? Is she having an affair? What is she really up to?

Based on the best-selling novel by master thriller writer John le Carré, "The Constant Gardener" is a fine love story wrapped up in a parable which has real power and it has credibility… It depicts the breach between the rich and the poor and demonstrates quite well that the world is deeply corrupt…

Fiennes' character, Justin, is a minor member of the diplomat corps more interested in his garden than in other people, until the passionate, radical world of Rachel Weisz's Tessa turns everything on its head… Justin respected Tessa's spirit and her conviction and idealism… And because of his love for her, he had to finish what she started… Of course people don't want the information to get out and they will do anything to silence him…

Rachel Weisz won her first Oscar on March 5th, 2006 for her impressive performance as the beautiful, kooky young woman, whose passion for her cause initially overshadows her gentle side…
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Great Great film.
yolanda_flcn2 September 2005
I thought the movie was great and worthy of the praise it has been getting from audiences and critics alike. Ralph Fiennes gives the performance of his career as a grieving man looking for answers and is slowing discovering the corruption all around him and Rachel Weisz steals the film whole heartily with a really deserving Oscar worthy performance as a human rights activist who will stop at nothing to get at the truth. The story is pretty scary and the cinematography is fantastic. Yes, the shaky camera can get in the way but it's not distracting enough to ruin the film.

If you want to see a movie that will make you think, this is it.
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Enjoy the guilt trip
Tomwatts16 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This is very competently made, but I think in the final analysis, fine performances, fine production design and fine cinematography count for little when a film is so wrapped up in its smug self-deception that it demeans the causes it affects to champion. Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes), a decent-hearted civil servant, falls in love with Tessa (Rachel Weisz), a political activist brimming with youthful righteousness. At the beginning of the film, Tessa weeps and rants about the decision to go to war with Iraq; we have the cliché of the "over-emotional" woman whose excess of feeling is supposed to chasten the buttoned-down conformity of the people around her. She says nothing of interest about Iraq. The subject of Iraq is a mere dramatic shorthand for any fashionable subject about which "people like us" hold the same opinion. Not two minutes later (of screen time at any rate!) our couple are shown having beautifully-photographed sex. Beautiful souls to beautiful bodies - how appropriate! How exquisitely civilized! I know an Iraqi guy who told me that in England, when people find out that he is Iraqi, they almost always apologise - "I'm so, so sorry". Why, he asked me, do they do that? Of course I replied that the majority of us in the UK opposed the war and we feel appalled by the misery that has ensued, and that the Labour government having been legitimately elected, we all feel in some way responsible for its policies. However, watching The Constant Gardener, a more sinister explanation presents itself. Perhaps those apologies to this random Iraqi are offered more as narcissistic tributes to the English person's sense of ethical superiority. Perhaps what they are saying is "how beautiful I am that I care".

And Africa? We have only one properly presented African character, a doctor, who has to have Tessa do his talking for him when the big men are around, and who has in fact so little in the way of a rounded character that he can be arbitrarily labelled as "gay" half- way through the film to service a plot-twist. Otherwise, the Africans are smiling children of the sort beloved of passing tourists, or corrupt policemen in fly-blown offices. There is no more than a superficial effort made to present the African locations as specific, coherent societies. "Africa" is merely an object for the viewer's "compassion" or repulsion. The constantly whirling camera-work flings us into the exhilarating chaos; it never occurs to the film-makers to stop and actually look at anything.

That said, the plot mechanics do their mechanical thing efficiently enough, and the characters get a bit sweaty with the stress and fast activity. Look elsewhere, however, for emotional risk or psychological insight. If the unexamined life is not worth living, neither is the life turned admiringly in the hand like a priceless netsuke. The Constant Gardener, with it's smugly cathartic ending, allows no unpolished feeling to disrupt its narcissism. I wonder if this narcissism isn't symbolised in the film by Quayle's mourning the loss of Tessa, political activism motivated by private erotic conscience, a gentlemanly pre- occupation with the conflict between duty and propriety.

The Constant Gardener ends up insulting Africa rather than redeeming it, precisely because it has redemption on it's mind. One could defend it I suppose by saying that it at least "raises the issues", but there is nothing empowering, nothing motivating about this film. It is in fact extremely boring. As it drags into its second hour, it is a movie one feels oneself wading though, up to one's waist in the sludge of fine cinematography and flashy editing. But films like this will always find a place in the market, as gloss substitutes for genuine attempt at care and insight. The times will continue to demand them
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Powerful and haunting story
cinemafilo1 September 2005
It's been less than a day since I have seen it and I find it difficult to get it out of my mind. The images and feelings stay with you. The direction, cinematography and editing is superb. If you loved the style of "City of God" with its "documentary style" camera work then you'll love this too. The story is done "non-linear" like it was in the book….and I thought it made the experience of seeing the movie so much more enjoyable. Since the film starts off very early with the death of Tessa and then continues with Justin's journey of discovery to find out the cause of her death which only seems to bring even more heartache and anger.....the non-linear style allowed for some light hearted moments from Justin and Tessa's marriage to break up the tension.

The performances by both Rachel Weisz and Ralph Fiennes are excellent. The relationship between Justin and Tessa came across as very real and touching and it's a testament to the chemistry between the 2 actors. The intimate moments were some of the most realistic I have ever seen of a couple in love…...unlike "Hollywood movie love". Fiennes performance is unforgettable. I would have to rate this very close to the quality I saw in "Schindler's List". He demonstrates such a change from the beginning of the movie to the end. He conveys so much with just his face. Justin will break your heart… especially as he gains wisdom. The soundtrack provides a wonderful complement to Justin's journey of discovery. The music has a haunting quality as does this movie.

It's a testament to Meireilles that the movie seems to slowly draw you in and hooks you as you go along with Justin. It challenges the viewer to see the poverty and forces you to face your own complacency in the world. So as Justin gains wisdom and is forced out of his complacency….. it is like Meireilles is turning the mirror towards the audience and asking them "Do you see what's happening in the world? What are you going to do about it?". It is a powerful and moving story and I think will soon become a favorite. I expect nominations for all the major categories.
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Haunting, Heartfelt and Horrifying
rayoduck1 September 2005
Slow tension building thriller that is charge even more with the great performances of Rachel Weisz and Ralph Fiennes, who both bring an essence of realism to their roles and a sense of chemistry that is really not found in movies like this anymore. Rachel Weisz brings a ferry fury that is ripe in it's convictions and Ralph Fiennes brings a cool, collective zeal that is a slow building timer ready to emotionally exploded at any minute. Both performances compliment the fine directing of Fernando Meirelles, who gives this tale a sense of brilliance in its storytelling and a sense of the way the world really works. It's a heartfelt story of lost and redemption and it's hauntingly poetic in it's horrifying look at the horrors of a world that is willing to cast a blind eye at the problems of big business and corrupt governments that are willing to do anything in order to make a fast buck. Even going as far than to destroy human life to achieve their goals.

This is a brilliant film and I can't wait to see it again.
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