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The Constant Gardener

Love. At any cost. 

Year: 2005 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: This film is expected to have certain elements which are subtitled, but it is not expected that the entire film will contain them. 
Directed by Fernando Meirelles 
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz  
An image from The Constant Gardener

Justin Quayle (Fiennes), a mild-mannered British diplomat with a passion for gardening, is challenged at a conference by the devoted activist Tessa (Weisz). She soon wins his heart and they marry. Justin takes Tessa on a diplomatic mission to Kenya but tragedy strikes when Tessa is found brutally murdered. His company advises him to let them take care of the matter but Justin is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding his wife’s death. In doing so, he discovers a web of corruption and cover-ups involving members of the British High Commission and the pharmaceutical industry who are trialing a vaccine on unaware Kenyans. On the road to justice he must face his memories, fears and suspicions, and learn of his wife’s life before him…

In The Constant Gardener, Meirelles follows the stunning City of God with an equally brilliant tale of love and corruption. He strikes the perfect balance between a moving love story and a haunting depiction of how far big businesses will go to increase profits. The non-linear fashion of story-telling works well; flashbacks give the audience the feel of walking alongside Justin on his road to self-discovery and also break up the tension with more light-hearted moments from the marriage. The film is visually engaging, featuring beautiful panoramic shots of Africa and tense, hand-held camera moments.

Weisz fully deserved her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and Fiennes is equally exceptional as the lead. The fantastic juxtaposition between feisty Tessa and quiet Justin provides the groundwork for a complex relationship. Through this touching tale of romance the audience is exposed to a realistic view on big business, poverty and injustice. In a nutshell, The Constant Gardener is a challenging and clever thriller that goes highly recommended to anyone looking for a powerful story with a great cast and thought-provoking subject material. This one is sure to stay with you for some time.

Julia Huntenburg


Ralph Fiennes gives a stunning performance as Justin, an inoffensive British diplomat who is drawn to the passions of Tessa (Rachel Weisz), a human-rights activist. When the couple move to Kenya, Tessa joins a quest to help suffering Africans but is also conducting top-secret research into a major pharmaceutical company that may be involved in criminal activities. Suspicions are raised when she is murdered. Surprising his colleagues, Justin sets out on a searching, perilous odyssey across several continents to uncover her demise. He is haunted by remorse, fuelled by grief and shattered by rumours of his wife’s supposed infidelities. Working through his trauma, he is drawn into the political underworld where a host of conspirators trap him in a web of paranoia. Yet he strides on, risking his life yearning to expose the truth.

Fiennes and Weisz both put in excellent performances. The chemistry on screen is believable, and their fiery love story is stirring when set against the backdrop of rural Africa. Fiennes, playing the reticent hero motivated by love, portrays some true emotional moments in the film. There are also some great supporting performances from Danny Huston, Bill Nighy and Pete Postlethwaite. Mierelles’ direction and cinematography are first-rate. The bold camerawork and editing techniques develop the film from an average political thriller into one that exudes suspense and political intrigue, proving that his last offering, City of God, was no fluke. The film retains the novel’s non-linear style to throw the audience from scenes of passion to betrayal with a splash of social commentary.

The Constant Gardener is an emotionally powerful film that exposes the shadowy world of corporate greed and the war it rages against the powerless. It has at its heart a poignant love story and a solemn lesson on the fragmented destruction of the continent.

Sarah Hall

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Screenings of this film:

2005/2006 Spring Term (35mm)
2005/2006 Spring Term (35mm)
2006/2007 Autumn Term (35mm)
2009/2010 Spring Term (35mm)