13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
"Women make the homes, men just make wars ... and hooch.",
This review is from: The Constant Gardener [DVD]  (DVD)
Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles more than does justice to John Le Carre's 2001 novel, "The Constant Gardner" in this extraordinary adaptation. He worked closely with cinematographer Cesar Charlone to recreate the vivid quality of Africa, of Kenya, and of the African people, in the movie theater. With photography, color, motion and wonderful music, the viewer is taken to both the Nairobi of the wealthy expatriate community - and the villages and shantytowns of the not so fortunate. The acting is superb!
Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes), is a kindly, self-effacing British diplomat, a bachelor attached to the British High Command in Nairobi. He is a steadfast, loyal and moral man. Gardening is his passion. Justin meets and falls in love with social and political activist Tessa, (Rachel Weisz). One gets the feeling that he had never experienced such intensity of feeling before - not even through gardening. Therefore, shortly after their initial encounter, when she asks him to take her to Africa, he does - as Mrs. Quayle.
True to form, in Kenya Rachel becomes extremely involved working with the poor and infirm, especially with women and children. Her constant companion and coworker is a black doctor, Arnold Bluhm, (Hubert Kounde). Together they visit villages and do the best they can to tend to their patients with minimal supplies and medication from pharmaceutical companies and relief organizations. The dates on most of the supplies and medicine are expired by the time they reach the targeted population. The donors, however, are still provided with tax write-offs.
The film opens with the brutal murder of Rachel Quayle in an isolated area of northern Kenya, and the disappearance of Bluhm. When rumors of Rachel's infidelity surface as an explanation for her death, Arnold becomes the prime suspect as the thwarted lover. Justin’s good friend and colleague, Sandy Woodrow (Danny Huston), tells him of his wife's demise. Justin, in shock, still feels sorry for Sandy for having to break such terrible news. Grief-stricken, Quayle begins to investigate his wife's so called "infidelities" and discovers that Rachel and Arnold had been compiling evidence about a multinational drug company that uses the poor and uneducated to test new drugs.
Risking his own life, Quayle finds that his old colleagues in the diplomatic corps are well aware of Rachel's activities. He also discovers that life outside his garden is not a pretty place at all.
Fiennes is wonderful as the man mourning a woman he loved but did not know very well. The depth of his quiet sadness powerfully permeates the film. Weisz is perfect as the younger woman, sincerely driven to make a difference. The scenes when she romps with the children in the shantytowns are electric with energy and joy, despite the squalid conditions. Huston's character is a real sleaze but he's not the biggest rat - that position belongs to Sir Bernard Pellegrin, (Bill Nighy), knight of the realm, and probably the most corrupt, distasteful character I have seen in quite a while.
"The Constant Gardner" is a wonderful and compelling love story, as well as a chilling mystery with themes of social justice and ethics, as well as deception, deceit and murder most foul.
Again, Meirelles' artistic eye and the camera results are golden. The marvelous score is by Spanish composer Alberto Iglesias. Highly recommended!