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Return to 2006 Films

Index of 2006

An Inconvenient Truth
Big Bad Swim
Brokeback Mountain
Cinderella Man
The Departed
The DaVinci Code
Eron: The Smartest
Guys in the Room

Good Night and
Good Luck

Half Nelson
History of Violence
Hotel Rwanda
Little Miss Sunshine
Journey from the Fall
March of the Penguins
Million Dollar Baby
Prairie Home Companion
Star Wars III:
Revenge of the Sith

Thank You for Smoking
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
The Sea Inside
United 93
War of the Worlds
Walk the Line
World Trade Center

The Constant Gardener
A Review by Tom Condon, OP
(St. Martin Province)

Genres: Drama
Running Time: 2 hrs. 09 min.

MPAA Rating: R for language, some violent images and sexual content/nudity.


When a British diplomat's wife -- a socially-conscious lawyer -- turns up dead in Kenya, he sets out to find the truth surrounding her murder. In the process, he finds out that his wife had been compiling data against a multinational drug company that uses helpless Africans as guinea pigs to test a tuberculosis remedy with unfortunately fatal side effects. Therefore those who may have had the most reason to silence her are closer to home than he ever imagined.

The Constant Gardener is the best dramatic film
to be released so far this year.

Let me begin by saying that The Constant Gardener is an excellent movie that I highly recommend. It has passion, suspense, soul, and conscience. What more could you want?

Based on a novel by John Le Carre and directed by Brazilian Fernando Meirelles , The Constant Gardener tells the story of Justin Quayle, a middle level British diplomat (Ralph Fiennes, in one of his best performances) in Kenya. As the film opens, Justin is meticulously tending his garden. One of his colleagues arrives to tell him that there was a jeep accident on a deserted country and a badly burned body was found. They think it could be his wife, Tessa (played with passion and mystery by Rachel Weisz). Justin and his colleague go to the morgue to identify the body, which sadly, is confirmed to be Tessa. Fiennes is incredible in these early scenes of properly controlled grief and shock.

The movie then flashes back a lecture hall in London where Justin and Tessa met. Justin is delivering a paper on foreign policy and the fiery Tessa challenges him strongly. Mild mannered Justin is attracted to the passionate Tessa. Before you know it, they fall in love. Justin is preparing to return to Kenya and Tessa is very eager to accompany him. So they decide to marry so the two can go together.

After her death, Justin wonders what Tessa has been up to all along. Did she simply use him and their marriage to gain access to Africa where she could pursue her passionate, and controversial, humanitarian concerns? Was he betrayed by her? Was her death really an accident? As the mystery unfolds, Justin is transformed from the mild-mannered diplomat, never wanting to rock the boat, to a courageous seeker of truth, even to the point of risking his own life. It’s a great role, and a tour de force for Fiennes.

The Constant Gardener is highly critical of British policy in Africa. A major plot development involves the collusion between the government and a pharmaceutical company using Africans as research subjects. Even though the context is the policy and racial attitudes of the British, there are certainly parallels American attitudes.

To say much more would be to spoil the pleasure of watching the mystery unfold. Suffice it to say that I see The Constant Gardener to be a good companion piece to Hotel Rwanda. They are very different movies, but, at the heart of both is a severe critique of Western attitudes toward Africa, and how they contribute to the poverty and death in that continent.

Constant Gardener is also a fiercely passionate movie. The sexual scenes between Justin and Tessa are highly charged.. The passion is sexual, but it’s also a passion for truth and justice. This is one of the reasons the movie stands out among the standard Hollywood romance.

Along with Crash, The Constant Gardener is the best dramatic film to be released so far this year. I’m happy to know that Crash found an audience in the theaters earlier this summer, and is now available on DVD for more to see. I hope that The Constant Gardener concludes the summer season by finding its audience too, now, and on DVD in a few months. These two films give me hope that there will be more passionate, substantial movies ahead.

Tom Condon, O.P.

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