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Overall Rating

Awesome: 20.79%
Worth A Look40.59%
Average: 13.86%
Pretty Bad: 18.81%
Total Crap: 5.94%

10 reviews, 41 user ratings

Constant Gardener, The
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by brianorndorf

"Nothing is allowed to grow in this garden"
2 stars

With “The Constant Gardener,” filmmaker Fernando Meirelles is attempting to weave a standard political thriller with a sharp reminder on the crumbling of Africa. Unfortunately, Meirelles’s intended chaotic visual palette chokes the life right out of the tale, with leads Ralph Fiennes and Rachael Weisz acting as glue to keep this thriller together. Visually ambitious, “Gardener” falls flat.

After meeting and marrying a young radical named Tessa (Rachel Weisz), docile British diplomat Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) finds his political and social life turned upside down. During a turbulent stint in Africa, Tessa is brutally murdered, leaving behind a vast trail of unanswered questions and baffling clues that lead to pharmaceutical companies with an unhealthy interest in the poorest areas of Africa. His mind reeling with questions and rage, Justin risks his job and his life in an effort to probe further into Tessa’s demise, discovering truths along the way that he can hardly comprehend.

Adapted from the John Le Carre novel, “The Constant Gardner” is director Fernando Meirelles’s follow-up to the eye-opening sensation, “City of God.” “Gardener” is a tale of suspense, grief, paranoia, and pleading, wrapped up in a chilling warning about the state of Africa. A wildly determined piece of cinema, “Gardener” ultimately takes on way too much and topples, though very admirably.

Mierelles is a lover of fractured visuals, and, as seen in “God,” the man loves to throw his camera around. Because “Gardener” is about corruption and paranoia, the visual palette the filmmaker has chosen is one of disorder. Starting with a staccato narrative that jumps around in time to emphasize Justin’s grieving and Tessa’s personality change, Mierelles keeps his visuals fluid, not turning down a single angle opportunity, even if it takes the audience out of the picture. It’s troubling to see an interesting, timely piece of fiction like “Gardener” be taken down the route of so many other films that elect to use chaos as a pedestrian way to convey intensity. With jump cuts, almost pathological hand-held camera work, and mucked-with cinematography, “Gardener” tires the eye long before the tale runs out of steam. It’s easy to see what effect Mierelles is attempting with his cinema language, but “Gardener” is a strong enough tale to support a much sturdier, more organized approach to conspiracy and anguish.

Thankfully Mierelles has his actors, who pull off the complicated and enigmatic Le Carre world better than the director can. Ralph Fiennes is typically note-perfect in the role of Justin, mashing up diplomatic courtesy and revenge-obsessed rage in a nice little mix that helps the film’s core mystery seem more appealing that it really is. Danny Houston also contributes sly work as Quayle’s slimy confidant. While given limited screen time, Rachel Weisz is the heart of “Gardener,” with the actress giving a fresh spin on frustrated suspicion and stubbornness in her tricky role. Setting the plot in motion, Weisz earns her place as the core of the film, and provides the critical empathy Mierelles is missing by a mile.

Mierelles does capture the beauty and hell of Africa in vivid locations that seem almost too impossible to be real. For this, “Gardener” excels at detailing the cataclysmic poverty swallowing the continent. Between the plot, which emphasizes the fleecing of Africa by pharmaceutical corporate vultures, and the photography, “Gardener” becomes lost in its many positions.

Unfortunately, the film borders on preaching when it should be more concerned about the numerous dramatic threads that are rapidly beginning to fray.

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originally posted: 09/01/05 01:14:27
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell gripping good film 4 stars
3/13/16 roberta wiener compelling, gripping,a smart person's film.. Fiennes" acting is amazing and subtle. 5 stars
4/26/12 tan hongtao a movie about a crasy bitch who lost her mind, 1 stars
3/18/09 Chaka Khan I dont understand the rave about this movie, not believable in any way and brutally boring 2 stars
11/09/08 mr.mike The central mystery isn't all that compelling, Fiennes and a satisfying ending compensate 4 stars
5/21/07 action movie fan BORING STORY COMSTANTLY DULL 1 stars
5/15/07 mb Excellent Movie ... useless ending. 4 stars
5/11/07 R.W. Welch A shade overdone, but still intriguing conspiracy flick. B- 4 stars
3/29/07 fools♫gold been-done-before-and-better "drama/action", like Bulletproof Monk, but more boring. 2 stars
2/11/07 Mystic Dark, brooding and will haunt for along time. The story of our times.... 5 stars
11/14/06 Ryan_A Fiennes is fantastic. 4 stars
11/05/06 zaw WTF! This movie is for people who like to complicate their lives! Real life is not!!! 1 stars
11/02/06 Patsyc A good movie. It has a very good storyline. 4 stars
9/01/06 MP Bartley Angry, and the emotion of it creeps up on you. Fiennes is brilliant. 4 stars
8/01/06 Eden Despite the storyline, its a kinda bland film; completely forgetable 2 stars
5/19/06 Simon Doesn't quite have a knockout punch as a moviegoer would like, but its sincerity is legit 4 stars
5/06/06 daveyt enjoyable, didn't mind the time lapse plot, jerky cinematography and slow pace! 4 stars
4/29/06 millersxing A well-intentioned, overbearing snoozer. 2 stars
4/23/06 Phil M. Aficionado In a few days it will blend into a dozen others I've seen, full of incongruous twists 3 stars
3/11/06 Josh Standlee Fact: Ralph Feinnes is an emotionless android. 2 stars
3/07/06 Annie G Interesting overall, but seriously do people think drug companies have this much power? 4 stars
2/27/06 Serious Critic !0 Osrcar noms but still this is ciold war propaganda 4 stars
2/25/06 Indrid Cold A leisurely-paced thriller with more intimate romantic scenes than actual thrills. 4 stars
2/09/06 helen bradley A story that lingers well after leaving the flick, great acting all round and photograohy 5 stars
1/26/06 john bale Timely and disturbing thriller which must raise concern about the ethics of some Companies. 5 stars
1/22/06 Simon Very-very well done. Well-developed characters, unforced social awareness, smart dialogue 5 stars
1/17/06 Agent Sands Intelligent, well-directed film. 4 stars
1/13/06 middle earth characters with soul, but film event driven, who are these people? 4 stars
12/14/05 What's the matter with you people? What a complete waste of time! Weisz and Fiennes should be shot down for this! 1 stars
10/06/05 Taylor Fladgate Can you say "Oscar!"? This film will get at least 5 nods. 5 stars
9/29/05 Olga Reprintseva awakening and beautiful 4 stars
9/17/05 Suzz excellent performances but just your average thriller otherwise 3 stars
9/15/05 Jake I walked into this film expecting a great movie. An hour later, I walked disappointed. 2 stars
9/13/05 susan great 5 stars
9/08/05 Koitus Didn't care for "out of time" sequencing; many "false" leads provided, too... 2 stars
9/05/05 Ionicera great performances and love story 4 stars
9/05/05 Melina remembering the movie, brings tears to my eyes again - definitely worth seeing! 5 stars
9/04/05 Bob Siesholtz This was a horrible movie. It was slow moving and boring. Drug companies are evil. Thanks 1 stars
9/01/05 B.Blackbrain It was like a documentary by Alfred Hitchcock. Best movie I've seen all year. 5 stars
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  31-Aug-2005 (R)
  DVD: 10-Jan-2006



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