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The Constant Gardener (2005)
"The Constant Gardener" tells of one widow's quest to uncover the truth behind the conspiracy surrounding his wife's sudden murder and its precarious relations to the drug/medicine and Aids epidemic in Nairobi, Africa. As his research continues to reveal dangerous clues it appears that Justin Quayle will have to risk all if it means avenging his wife's untimely death.
Written by: John le Carre (novel) and Jeffrey Caine (screenplay).
Directed by: Fernando Meirelles.
Genre: Drama, Thriller.
Rated: R for language, some violent images and sexual content/nudity.
Tagline: It was for love at any cost…
Academy Award nominated director Fernando Meirelles adapts John le Carre's novel THE CONSTANT GARDENER for a contemporary political thriller that will move and paralyze'simultaneously. The film commences in Northern Kenya where political activist Tessa Quayle (Rachel Weisz) has just been found brutally murdered. Her infamous partner, African doctor Arnold Bluhm (Hubert Kounde) seems to have fled the'scene, with bounty hunters on the lookout. Immediately members of the British High Commission in Nairobi get in on the PR aspect of covering up her death; mum's the word. Assuming that her passive middle-of-the-road British diplomat widower, Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) will leave matters to them and their immediate channel, Quayle family friend Sandy Woodrow (Danny Huston), the last thing the Commission expected was for Justin to display any attempts at avenging her death by resurrecting her research.
But with rumors spreading about Tessa's alleged infidelities and her precarious "work" as it were, sparks the haunted widower to dig up the past, leaving no'stone unturned. His personal quest to avenge Tessa's death and discover the truth behind her work takes him on a tri-continental odyssey that will turn the heads of dangerous political officials and'send bounty hunters on the lookout for his next'stop. Still, using his political standing as leverage to gain access into certain networks Quayle makes considerable progress in uncovering the mystery behind Tessa's death- Here it'should be noted that the film is constantly oscillating between present time and past narrative; unfolding the events of Tessa's life, work, and death in a chronological pattern that works up to its tragic conclusion.
As it were, it seems that the African governments and affiliated British diplomats have a particular interest in all written records of Tessa's work; which were immediately seized upon her murder. Still it appears as if more evidence may be left to be found, specifically by her husband, whose quest leads him to connecting Tessa's work to a possible conspiracy surrounding the longstanding AIDS epidemic in Africa.
Well aware that multiple drug companies donate free'samples of drugs and likewise test alternative and innovative medicines on the AIDS patients, Quayle discovers that there is an inexplicably large population of the treated patients that are dying what appear to be untimely deaths. More importantly, once dead, all evidence of their lives are erased, as if they never existed in the first place; all medical records burnt and disposed of. Remembering Tessa's concern that the medical companies were illegally administering illicit drugs to the AIDS patients, using them as guinea pigs more or less, Quayle launches an all out personal investigation of the recent mainstream medical companies at large in ‘humanitarian’ African medical practice.
Still, the deeper Quayle digs the more deadly his research becomes. Believing to have exposed a connection between lethal'side-effects, illicit drugs, and the "missing" African victims, Quayle is just a few steps shy of uncovering the conspiracy that led to Tessa's brutal homicide. With even Sandy turning a cold political shoulder on his "friend", it appears as if Justin will have to go it alone to avenge Tessa's death; and Arnold’s. Not long after Tessa's body was found, Arnold's carcass was discovered hanging from a tree in a remote plain of the African desert.
With time working against Justin it appears that he only has a certain window of opportunity in which to expose the precarious drug company’s reckless experimentation before they go global with a mainstream marketed product. Likewise, it appears that Justin may even have to call into question ideologies of national pride as evidence links him closer and closer to nefarious British CEO's and diplomats that just may have their hands in far more dirty a line of work than they would like the world to know…
THE CONSTANT GARDENER is provocative, compelling, intelligent, humanistic, psychological, and deeply moving. Though it has been dubbed a "thriller" it is anything but that of a conventional replica from the genre. In deed THE CONSTANT GARDENER is arguably one of the'slowest "thrillers" ever made, and not necessarily in a bad way. Rather, the tension and suspense works much in the'same way as films like "Lord of War" or "Cape Fear", where a deeply psychological journey leads up to a tragic denoument; except that in this case the victims are revealed in the very beginning of the film…but with more to come of course. In fact,'some critics have compared "Gardener" to classics like "All the Presidents Men" and "The Killing Fields", dubbing it "one of the best political thrillers ever made".
Known for his work in the hauntingly'stirring docudrama/documentary "City of God" (la cuidade de Deus), here Fernando Meirelles delivers nothing less than the best and raises the bar on his artistic vision that prevailed in the former film. Far from being an in-your-face shockumentary’, THE CONSTANT GARDENER is imbued with poetics, artistry, and imperative human ideologies and philosophies that come to life through the calculated cinematography and the art and'set direction of the film. Here, like "Lord of War", we'see humanity at its worst, at its most vulnerable, and at its best; all at odds and working against one another in the deadly dynamics of political liaisons and, of course, money.
Rachel Weisz is absolutely moving, inspiring, in her portrayal as avid activist/humanist Tessa Quayle. Time will tell if'she will walk away with the Oscar for her riveting performance. Likewise, Ralph Fiennes finds a good niche in his role as the tormented lover (an elevated and more contemporarily contextualized version of his performance as Heathcliff in "Wuthering Heights"). His presence on'screen is commanding in an uncannily passive way. He is the loyal husband that never falters, yet, never moves until his wife’s death calls him into action. Conversely, Weisz is the'strong willed, almost untamable wife that regards the world with an innocence almost juvenile and dangerously naïve to the true politics, Justin's specialty, of the world. Still Fiennes and Weisz’ dynamics as'such yin/yang characters complement both their acting'skills, and the coloring of their character roles.
All in all, despite its disturbing storyline and harrowing plot devices, still, THE CONSTANT GARDENER pays homage to Africa’s remote and untainted beauty; in effect, the films honors all third world countries who have yet to infest themselves with the'sinful ways of politics and the dollar. To honor that intention, Meirelles chooses to linger over the scenery of African soil: from the deserts, to the'shanty towns, to the lush tropical forests, etc. From Nairobi to Kenya there are dozens of'shots paying homage to the African cultures and peoples who are fundamental in making the countries as compelling and innocent as they are. All in all the whole film is a beautiful montage, albeit tragic, of African culture and the beauty of life.
THE CONSTANT GARDENER was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Achievement in Editing (Claire Simpson), Best Achievement in Music (Alberto Iglesias), Best Supporting Actress (Rachel Weisz), and Best Writing (Jeffrey Caine). Additionally THE CONSTANT GARDENER garnered attention from various other critical film associations and was the proud recipient of another 29 nominations and 12 wins including the British Independent Film Award's awards for Best Actor (Ralph Fiennes) and Actress (Rachel Weisz) and the Golden Globe and Screen Actor's Guild award for Best Supporting Actress (Rachel Weisz).
Ralph Fiennes plays Justin Quayle, Tessa's widower who dedicates himself to unveiling the mysteries behind Tess's death, her research, and the conspiracy that'started everything.
Rachel Weisz plays Tessa Quayle, the avid activist determined to expose a deadly conspiracy surrounding the medical campaigns in Nairobi, Africa.
Hubert Kounde plays Arnold Bluhm, Tessa's research partner and main doctorial authority over the small African hospitals.
Danny Huston plays Sandy Woodrow, Justin and Tessa's precarious British business partner.