The Constant Gardener
The Constant Gardener
is an old fashioned tragic love story dressed in the garb of international
intrigue. It pulls off the not inconsiderable feat of being
breathtakingly romantic at the same time as it is surveying the callousness
of life and death in the third world.
For no matter how much this
movie delves into the inhumanity of life in Kenya, the chasm between the
haves and have-nots and the evil
alliances that can pop up between big business and
corrupt government -- what resonates even more than all the poverty and
death and malfeasance is a simple and heartfelt story of opposites
Quayle (played by a never-better Ralph Fiennes -- and that is high praise
indeed) is a somewhat repressed British diplomat who is based in Kenya.
He only has two passions, gardening and his wife Tessa (played by
Rachel Weisz, also in a career-defining role). While Justin is a very
conservative, soft-spoken government worker, Tessa is devoted to liberal
-- constantly butting heads with Justin's co-horts in an attempt to bring
aid to the poor masses that surround them. She works at a free clinic
and is very active in shaking up the status quo of the country.
As the film begins, Tessa
leaves Justin with a handsome African doctor to go on a care mission.
Days later Quayle is told that she has been violently tortured and killed in
the jungle -- far from where she was supposed to be. Whispers and
innuendo suggest that she and the doctor were having an affair and they were
killed for being an interracial couple. Quayle is confronted with the
fact that he really did not know much about the woman he loved.
The rest of the film flips
back and forth between flashbacks in which Quayle relives their relationship
trying to find if he had been a fool to believe his heart and
his current attempts to
follow the twisted trail to explain what exactly happened. Needing
desperately to believe his marriage was not a mirage, he travels all over
Africa and Europe, uncovering more and more conflicting facts and stories.
The more he learns about her, the more he realizes that he never really knew
her at all.
A trail of government and
start to clear things up, but still he can't shake the
desperation of mournful loss. As a last gift to his wife, he goes up
against huge odds to complete her activist work, even though he knows that
it will quite probably destroy him as well.
It is great praise to say
that this passionate love gives a bittersweet edge to what is essentially a
horribly tragic story of a country and a people. However, unlike so
many similar films, The Constant Gardener does not allow the love to
eclipse the horror of the world that surrounds it. It is just another
devastation in a world that is full of them.
PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: January 9, 2006.