Anthony's Film Review
The Constant Gardener (2005)
The Constant Gardener is a mystery with an interesting look at the value of human life...
John le Carré is a novelist who injects much cynicism into his stories. Whether it's about espionage or anything else, you can often sense some anger underlying his words. Even if you haven't read any of his books, his style can still be captured in film adaptations, such as The Constant Gardener. This is a story that makes you look at the world on two scales—the small scale of the individual and the large scale of the world—and how one is heavily influenced by the other.
The movie stars Ralph Fiennes as Justin Quayle, a British diplomat to Kenya, and Rachel Weisz as his wife Tessa. It begins in Kenya with Justin learning about his wife's death. At the moment he sees her corpse in a morgue, the film flashes back to when they first met and made love. It's an effective technique used here and in other places in the film. By reversing the order of certain pairs of events, the more recent event can actually feel more emotional.
There is a mystery to solve, obviously. Justin and Tessa learn about a pharmaceutical company's efforts to test a new tuberculosis drug in Africa. They meet other characters, including the Kenyan doctor Arnold and various figures with connections to the pharmaceutical giant. As Justin uncovers clues about why his wife was killed, he becomes increasingly desperate to find out the truth.
I'm going to digress from the plot to comment on the portrayal of ordinary people. A John le Carré story like this one often shows us the lives of ordinary people around the world. The film captures the impoverished conditions of certain parts of Kenya. What does this have to do with the story? Simple. It reminds us that many people go on with their lives without having a single clue about any conspiracies and plots that are just around the corner. It also is a stark reminder that those in power can control the lives of individuals in ways that nobody can imagine. That is perhaps where the cynicism of this story lies.
Overall, I thought The Constant Gardener was good. It's not necessarily one of the best movies I've ever seen, but it's slightly above an average film in quality. The pacing of the mystery was a bit slow given the scenes in between, but it didn't fall flat. The ending was, however, rather interesting simply because it connects to the overriding theme of the story. If you have never seen a story like this one, then The Constant Gardener will open your eyes to the real world we live in while pulling you into an engaging mystery.
For more information about The Constant Gardener, visit the Internet Movie Database.