The poster for this film is somewhat misleading; Ralph Fiennes’ character couldn’t be more of an upstanding British gentlemen in both look and demeanor, at least until the last quarter of the film. But hey, given what this film has to offer, I can understand how it must have been hard to try and form a marketing campaign around it. The Constant Gardener is a film from the director of City of God, a well-revered film that I have yet to get to, but judging from this film’s presentation, I have a feeling Fernando Meirelles developed a style that garnered him a hit film, and he decided to keep the style running no matter what the content.
The film jumps back and forth between the past and the present to explore both how Justin and Tessa met and lived their life together in Kenya as well as the circumstances and investigation surrounding her death. The film seems very uncertain of just what type of film it wants to be; it is very clearly an emotional drama concerning one man’s quest for information into his wife’s death, but at times it ventures into conspiracy thriller, sometimes into a love affair drama, and all while being filmed in a cinema verite docu-drama style that belies the film’s serious nature. Really, the film is just a big hodgepodge, unsure of what it wants to make of itself. The one plus the film has above any other is its cast. Fiennes is irrepressibly charming and believably dedicated in his singular role, and does well with what he’s given. Rachel Weisz gives probably one of the best performances I’ve seen her in, helped along by the script which very easily gives her all the really memorable lines. Indeed, Weisz won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, despite very clearly being the female lead; I personally find it quite annoying when this sort of thing happens.
All in all, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this film. It just seemed too loosely connected; there was too much effort in too many disciplines to really form a streamlined narrative and film. That’s not to say the film isn’t entertaining, it is, but I kept looking deeper trying to figure out the nuts and bolts of the working machine, and kept coming up empty handed. It’s like bunches of gears and pistons from a bunch of different machines were all cobbled together into a working contraption of a film; it works, but it wasn’t meant to be built in this manner. I was surprised that this made the list, though in later years it was culled from the herd to make way for newer films, which in my eyes was understandable. You could do a lot worse than this film, but if you’re looking for something more, you may find yourself still looking.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10