When his wife is murdered in Africa, a diplomat attempts
to expose the pharmaceutical conspiracy that led to her death.
The Constant Gardener (2005)
Directed by Fernando Meirelles
Written by Jeffrey Caine
Starring Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Danny Huston,
Bill Nighy, Archie Panjabi, Hubert Koundé, Donald Sumpter,
Pete Postlethwaite, Gerard McSorley, Juliet Aubrey,
Based on the novel by John le Carré
Oscar Wins - Best Supporting Actress (Rachel Weisz)
Oscar Nominations - Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score (Alberto Iglesias)
The Constant Gardener is a film that simultaneously accomplishes its goal and doesn't quite hack it. As a documentary on the evils of Big Pharma, it's an effective watch. As a drama detailing the tragic murder of a diplomat's wife, not so much. This film's biggest problem is that it doesn't know what story it wants to tell the most and both stories end up getting way too muddled in the process. The performances are good, not great, and the deep conspiracy the film focuses on is so layered that by the film's end, you still don't really know who killed her. You're just happy it's over.
Ralph Fiennes is a terrific actor. In fact, he's one of my favorites. But his turn as English diplomat Justin Quayle is flat and boring. I wanted him to be angry at his situation, but the most he ever got was mildly frustrated. Rachel Weisz delivered a solid performance, but it certainly wasn't Oscar worthy. The rest of the cast was decent enough but not memorable enough to stand out. The Constant Gardener isn't a film built on characters, anyway. It revolves around circumstances, particularly the circumstances affecting the pharmaceutical business in Africa. In this respect, the film does a phenomenal job shedding a light on the decades of corruption that is tearing that continent apart.
I was hoping that once the connections were made, the film would be a lot smoother. Instead, I believe we hear at least three different characters confess that they were the reason Quayle's wife was killed. Each time it's revealed, there's no reason to be surprised. It's blatantly obvious that it was Big Pharma and it's blatantly obvious why. With the amount of talent behind the film, this should be a gold star in Fiennes's and Weisz's filmographies. I wanted this film to live up to its critical reputation, but I was not impressed.