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The Constant Gardener - Review

Ralph Fiennes in The Constant Gardener

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted Scenes; Extended Scene Haruma Play In Kibera; Embracing Africa Filming In Kenya; John Le Carre From Page To The Screen; Anatomy Of A Global Thriller Behind The Scenes Of The Constant Gardner.

HAVING dazzled audiences with his breath-taking debut, City of God, Fernando Meirelles returns with another scintillating piece of cinema in the form of The Constant Gardener.

The film is adapted from the novel by John Le Carré and functions both as a taut political thriller, with its finger on the pulse of current events, as well as an affecting love story that gives it an emotional kick you might not see coming.

Ralph Fiennes stars as mild-mannered British politician Justin Quayle, whose wife, Tessa (Rachel Weisz), a dogged human rights activist, is found brutally murdered in a remote region of Northern Kenya.

As he begins to investigate, it becomes clear to Justin that Tessa had become involved in a global conspiracy involving several prominent members of the British government and that his own life is in danger.

But fuelled by remorse and hurtful rumours of Tessa’s possible infidelities, Justin resolves to complete his wife’s work no matter what the cost, placing him at odds with fellow members of the British High Commission, including his best friend, Sandy Woodrow (Danny Huston) and the shadowy Sir Bernard Pellegrin (Bill Nighy).

Meirelles describes the film as his personal revenge for the way in which the US is trying to stop his home country, Brazil, from producing cheap generic drugs for people.

And it’s easy to see why the director would be so angry as he ruthlessly exposes the dirty tactics and profit-hungry motives of global corporations and the politicians who support them.

But The Constant Gardener offers far more than complex politics to keep its viewers gripped, thanks to some fantastic performances from a top-notch British cast.

Fiennes is especially good at portraying the quiet turmoil and heartfelt determination of a man desperate to make amends for what he’s lost, while his relationship with Tessa – relayed via flashback – is both touching and sensitively played.

Weisz, too, provides a suitably feisty activist, toying as much with the audiences’ perceptions of her as she does her husband’s.

While both Huston and Nighy offer staunch support as Fiennes’ colleagues who may have had a hand in Tessa’s death.

The look of the film is also first-rate, juxtaposing the bright, vibrant colours of Africa with the dull, rainy greys of London (when the film is at its most sombre), while Meirelles again proves himself a master at playing around with a non-linear structure.

It may require your utmost attention but the payoff is richly rewarding. The Constant Gardener is film-making at its most intelligent and poignant; socially aware and emotionally hard-hitting. An instant classic.