Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Ralph Fiennes The Constant Gardner Movie Directed by Fernando Meirelles
Starring Ralph Fiennes
Reviewed by Byron Merritt

THE CONSTANT GARDNER is one of those films that sneaks up on you and bites you in the butt. Mislabeled as a "thriller", this movie packs a wallop of a punch, leading us into the life of a man tortured by the murder of his wife, yet showing us an intimate love story that unfolds after her death.

The setting is present day Africa and the man is Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes, THE ENGLISH PATIENT), a British diplomat who struggles with a strong-willed wife (Rachel Weisz, THE MUMMY) named Tessa. Tessa is throwing a wrench into the works of the multimillion dollar operations of the pharmaceutical industry that use African men and women as test subjects for new drugs. And one of these new medicines (which is poised to make billions of dollars) may be killing people.

With too much money at stake, the drug company — that happens to be backed by the British government — takes its own action and kills Tessa.

Now Justin is on the case, trying to uncover what it was his wife had discovered and who was behind her murder. As he travels this road, though, he battles within himself the thoughts that Tessa may have been unfaithful ...only to learn that her love for him knew no bounds.

The direction of THE CONSTANT GARDNER by Fernando Meirelles is fascinating. His unorthodox use of scattered events and time allowed for some interesting aspects, most notably a character flow that grew backwards from the story ...for a while. About halfway through the movie the continual forward motion of time starts up, with no flashbacks, and allows the viewer to see a pleasant (if somewhat fatalistic) ending.

There’s no heavy-handed message that forces itself upon the viewer, either. Like immersing yourself in a steaming hot-tub, this film also gently lowers you into its waters, giving you a feel for what might lay ahead.

It was also nice to see characters that were so multifaceted. Friends became enemies, enemies became friends, and acquaintances could very well help or kill any one of the movie’s main characters.

This is definitely a film that’ll get a few Oscar nods in my estimation.

Oscar Award Winner: Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Golden Globe Award Winner: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
BAFTA Award Winner: Editing - Motion Picture


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