The Constant Gardener

Movies Reviews
The Constant Gardener

Meirelles marries complex plotlines and arresting visual style in conspiracy romance

Director: Fernando Meirelles
Cinematography: César Charlone
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Daniele Harford, Danny Huston, John Keogh
Studio info: Focus Features, 129 minutes

In The Constant Gardener, diplomacy is overstepped by both those with corrupt intentions and those who see it as a bureaucratic divide to human charity. Combining the oft-convoluted storytelling of novelist John Le Carré and the violently dazzling visuals of Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles (City of God), its message is emboldened by the failure of its well-intentioned characters to intervene in the robbed lives of others.

The gentle Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) is a British ambassador of the High Command in Nairobi, who seldom raises his voice and spends most of his time pruning his backyard garden. His life intertwines with Tessa (Rachel Weisz) after delivering an inorganic speech early in the film, an opportunity she seizes to grill him on the quagmire in Iraq. These opposites attract, and the two court and wed, though Tessa holds out that Justin’s position isn’t contrary to her progressivism. But he’s hesitant to let her utilize his resources to aid her worldwide protests against injustice.

The ?lm moves in a nonlinear fashion, as pieces of Tessa’s latest championed cause draw her into the moral aberration of multinational pharmaceuticals, a tangled web which ends with her murder. This awakens an unknown fire in Justin. Left with evidence that African AIDS patients are being used as guinea pigs for a coming tuberculosis swell, his chest tightens and he moves to expose the capitalistic currents that silenced his wife’s activism.

The Constant Gardener portrays Africa as a microcosm of a world without visible market ethics or a sizeable hand of justice. Though individuals may shout loudly for global change, corporate giants and politicians can whisper it into existence. The dénouement is star-crossed tragic, but a potently lingering romance and an austere sense of cultured filmmaking abounds.

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