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Chris Evans

Published November 11th, 2005 | by Chris Evans

The Constant Gardener Review

Classification: 15 Director: Fernando Meirelles Rating: 2.5/5

It is now safe to say that if you want to ruin a good film, bring in Ralph Fiennes as the lead character. He has already proved his ability to act like a wooden plank in English patient and Maid in Manhattan, and now the plank has returned in this political/romantic drama set in Africa.

This film had all the ingredients to be great. Imagine it as a cocktail: you have the ideal instructions manual in the form of a best selling novel from John le Carré; the person making the drink is Fernando Meirelles, the director of the greatest film of all time “City of God”; and the contents are a delicious blend of political corruption and Rachel Weisz. Now imagine pouring urine into the mix to give it all a really sour taste and you get the idea of Fiennes’ impact on the film.

Set in a remote area of Northern Kenya, the film begins with the death of human rights activist Tessa Quayle (Rachel Weisz). Tessa’s companion, a doctor, appears to have fled the scene, and the evidence points to a crime of passion. Members of the British High Commission in Nairobi assume that Tessa’s widower, their mild-mannered and unambitious colleague Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes), will leave the matter to them. Instead, haunted by remorse and jarred by rumours of his late wife’s infidelities, Quayle decides to take up from where his wife left off, travelling across three continents and delving into diplomatic secrets, risking his own life to uncover and expose the truth. That’s the idea anyway.

Sadly, the relationship between Fiennes and Weisz is about as convincing as Peter Andre and Jordan, and gets in the way of the hugely important, controversial issue of international pharmaceutical companies supplying dodgy drugs to Africa to treat diseases such as Tuberculosis.

To make matters worse, the suspect characters portraying the drugs company bosses in the film change from being uncooperative bastards, determined to make sure Fiennes doesn’t succeed in his search for the truth to supportive friends happy to divulge important information.

The only saving graces of this film are Rachel Weisz, who performs her role with true grit and determination, and Pete Postlethwaite as a doctor involved in wrongdoing, but who tries to repent for his sins. Meirelles’ directing is not as sharp or edgy as it was in City of God and the flash back scenes of Fiennes remembering his intimate moments with Weisz are just cheesy. Even my girlfriend didn’t cry, and she blubs just watching adverts.

Despite the beautiful landscape shots, this film does not have enough depth, warmth or political insight – you are better off looking at the Amnesty website if you want to learn more about the politics of drugs companies. As for Fiennes, I see a glittering career in a call centre ahead of him.

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