VOD film review: The Constant Gardener
James R | On 18, Dec 2014
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Bill Nighy, Pete Postlethwaite
Watch The Constant Gardener online in the UK: Amazon Prime
Spies. Corruption. Conspiracy. Money. Death. These are all present in this thrilling adaptation of John Le Carré’s The Constant Gardener. The gardener of the title is Justin (Ralph Fiennes), an official of the High British Commission in Kenya. He is married to Tessa (Rachel Weisz), a political activist. The film opens with Justin hearing that Tessa’s body has been found – murdered.
Justin is every bit the stereotypical Englishman, emotionally reserved and unresponsive when he sees Tessa. (His colleague Sandy, on the other hand, vomits.) When at parties with Tessa, he would blend into the background while she posed awkward questions for visiting officials. She did more politically, emotionally, and physically than he did – he is every bit the passivist to her activist.
Flashbacks occur throughout the film, showing us the stages of their relationship; how they met when she spoke out at the end of one of his lectures; how they went for a drink afterwards; how they went back to her place and straight to bed. The first half focuses on their marriage. Weisz dominates the screen with a presence that’s at once intimate, caring and determined when it comes to securing fair medical treatment for the people around them.
The second half deals with the aftermath of her death. Rumours of affairs and hidden secrets circulate while Fiennes seeks out the truth his wife did not share with him. His fight against pharmaceutical companies and the British government is gripping and heart-wrenching, and Fiennes expertly handles the thawing of his character as the film progresses; he gradually becomes the determined one asking the awkward questions, no longer able to hid in the background.
He’s supported by an excellent ensemble cast that brings a wealth of ambiguity and suspicion to the table – by the end of the film, it’s hard to name someone who hasn’t deceived or blackmailed someone else.
The cinematography and editing work together fluently, from the flock of birds that frame the whole film to simple facial close-ups or dynamic snapshots of trains arriving at stations. The result is a stylish and compelling tale of corruption and loss.
The Constant Gardener is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.