I re-call giving this a miss at theatres because it looked too lovey-dovey for me! What an idiot because last night I learnt this is based on a John le Carre novel and he is far from writing romances! He is in a fact a very good thriller writer, and if The Constant Gardner is anything to go by he hasn't lost his touch.
The problem with the theatrical trailers for this movie is that they seemed to concentrate on the kissing scenes which gave no indication as to what the movie was about. That is why I gave it a wide berth. It was a very big surprise to find that it wasn't a romance per se but a thriller that starts with a couple who meet, shag, find that a bun in the oven is the result, and get married.
Ralph Fiennes and Rachael Weisz pull off a very credible on screen marriage. There seemed to be real a chemistry between them. As an on screen couple I really liked them. Their 'intimate' moments were well done, and they really gave the impression of being totally besotted with one another. They set the tone extremely well for later events when the marriage is under strain from Weisz's character. The whole cast is extremely good with some high quality British actors involved. But for me Rachael Weisz was the revelation as I never thought she could act very well. She of course was in the Mummy movies and they are b-grade material to say the least. Starring in them had obviously coloured my view of her abilities because in The Constant Gardner she is a completely different actress and puts in a truley magnificent performance.
She is for me the star of the show, and even though she is killed of well before the end her performance is the one to watch and revel in. She is extremely good and deserving of her subsequent Oscar win. I really was knocked out by her as I really thought she was nothing but a b-grader and likely to stay that way. Her character is lovely! She is young, fresh, alive and totally yummy!! Not only that she is a total humanitarian and really cares about the plight of the poor in Kenya. She is just so believeable as Tessa Quayle that the viewer buys into her struggles and is genuinely saddened, and sickened, by her murder.
Ralph Fiennes in a very fine actor as we all know and is the absolute compliment to Weisz. He as a character is more timid than his wife and he finds it difficult to share her passions. He feels more pragmatic as he realises the enormous struggle she is taking on to get aid to the poor. His character under takes something of a transformation though after he finds out his wife was murdered and why. At one stage it looked as if the marriage was on the rocks and that she was cheating on him. She is a desirable woman as he well knows and several scenes in the movie lead us to believe that is what is happening. Fiennes plays the jilted husband well but can't face her because he doesn't want to know the truth. It is only after her murder does he find out she wasn't cheating on him at all, and was still utterly devoted to him.
The marriage angle in the plot is well done and superbly acted. Fiennes and Weisz deserve credit where it is due because they do make a very credible and nice on screen couple. Within a thriller this is unusal and the two are inter-woven beautifully. Tessa is a lovely woman who is murdered by a high profile company because she was about to expose their use of poor Africans as guinea pigs for their drugs. Fiennes is also murdered at the end and we feel real sympathy for him as he goes to the place where is wife was murdered to join her. It is a sad ending to a genuinely lovely married couple.
Of course their murders are to a extent a pull on the viewer's heart strings. They were such nice people though that the drug company, and the politicians backing them, are shown in their true light as money hungry bastards with no true regard for human life. They intigate a conspiracy and cover-up which leads to the Quayle's murders ( Bill Nighy is the main politician portrayed here and he is a real shit ).
The plot of The Constant Gardner is not particularly original as such. You have the usual little man taking on the big man scenario. The big man, with his money and power though , is able to arrange the killing off of the inconvienient little man to keep him quiet. Problem is the little man has the last laugh as he finds the appropriate evidence and exposes the big nasty man with it. Nothing new there really, but it doesn't mean the movie suffers for it as it is still an extremely good, top-notch, thriller.
The slums of Kenya are a real eye opener and worth the price of the rental. I believe the cast of the movie was so moved by the poverty they saw that they started a charity to raise funds to help the local aid agencies. Good on them as what you'll see in this movie is horrifc and absolutely appalling. The poverty is unbelievable, and the filth and squalor these peolpe live in is just indescribeable. It may be a fictional account of a drug companies nefarious actions and attitudes to the poor of Africa, but there is absolutely nothing fictional about the on camera filth and misery you see. It is truely shocking, and very moving and humbling to realise how lucky we are to live where we do and with what we have.
The Constant Gardner then is an extremely good thriller. The acting is superb, especially from Rachael Weisz, who is nothing short of outstanding. Fiennes is also very good as her husband and they both play a really believable married couple. The plot is your usual thriller fare but above the average as it involves on its peripheral the love of Weisz and Fiennes' characters. It is central to what Fiennes character does after his wife's murder. Set against the unbelievable poverty of Kenya this is a better than average watch and I do believe you will enjoy it. It is thought provoking even though fictional, and you will remember Rachael Weisz's performance for a long time afterwards.