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The Constant Gardener (2005) — CoverUps.com
Ralph Fiennes — Justin Quayle
Directed By: Fernando Meirelles
Running Time: 2h 9min
Sir Bernard Pellegrin: Do you no good to go poking around under rocks, Justin. Some very nasty things live under rocks, especially in foreign gardens.
Justin Quayle: Arnold Bluhm is gay, Bernard. Gay men don't rape their women friends.
Justin Quayle: [Tessa tells Justin to slow down, wanting to drive a woman, her baby, and her brother who are walking 40 kilometers back to his home] We can't involve ourselves in their lives, Tessa.
Policeman No. 1: For a diplomat you're not a very good liar.
Lorbeer: Big pharmaceuticals are right up there with the arms dealers.
Tim Donohue: I can get you out of Kenya. it's one of the few things we still do well. Drop it now, and it's over. I'll make sure word gets to the right people. Go home... and live.
CoverUps.com Rating: 4 UFOs
By the CoverUps.com staff
Few actors look as spiritually tortured as Ralph Fiennes. With his beseeching eyes and fine-drawn features, he could be an alabaster saint made flesh.
In "The Constant Gardener," directed by Fernando Meirelles and adapted by screenwriter Jeffrey Caine from the John Le Carré bestseller, he plays Justin Quayle, a midlevel career diplomat in the British High Commission whose placid existence in Kenya implodes when his wife Tessa (Rachel Weisz) is brutally murdered.
In a powerful morgue scene he is asked to identify Tessa's body. It is a devastating moment — in the blink of an eye his smooth façade is transformed into inconsolable sadness. The scene sets up the whole movie, and Fiennes is superb in it.
His controlled performance contrasts with Rachel Weisz's more flamboyantly temperamental one. Tessa is a hothead activist who first encounters Justin when she shouts down a lecture at which he is halfheartedly intoning in support of the Iraq war. But Tessa is no mere sloganeer. She risks her marriage and finally her life in order to expose the collusion between the High Commission and Big Pharma, which callously sacrifices impoverished Kenyans as unknowing guinea pigs for a so-called miracle drug not yet approved in the West.
She is operating in a postcolonial realm where wives are still expected to be ornamental. At first Justin is mortified by her lack of decorum, but soon this careful, privileged man has a grudging respect for her willfulness. She acts out the rebellion that he is too spiritually repressed to express. Tessa understands her own attraction to Justin: "I feel safe with you," she says. But then again, safety isn't a particularly high priority for her. Or for Justin, as events unfold. "The Constant Gardener" is a romantic story in which the husband doesn't fall in love with his wife until after she's died, and he becomes obsessed with rooting out her killers. He puts himself in harm's way almost as if he were sacrificing himself up to Tessa's memory. He wants to sanctify her life's quest.
Fernando Mereilles is clearly trying to make a love story cross-bred with international intrigue and he doesn't quite have the emotional aptitude to make it work. Many of the scenes depicting political corruption, rife with reptilian tycoons practiclly hissing in the shadows, are clichéd - despite the work of excellent actors like Bill Nighy, Gerard McSorley, and Danny Huston.
"The Constant Gardener" is basically two films in one. But those halves add up to more than most movies do right now. And when it all comes together — as in the morgue scene, or in a hospital sequence where Tessa reels from the horror of an African woman injured by the "miracle" drug — then the film achieves a degree of terror and moral outrage that is truly powerful.
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