Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Constant Gardener

Fernando Meirelles directed one of the best films of 2002 that I didn't get to see until 2004 - City of God. His follow-up film, The Constant Gardener, is possibly even better. Ralph Fiennes plays Justin, a British diplomat who is investigating the circumstances of his wife's (Rachel Weisz) death. A good chunk of the movie is told in flashback. I suppose the movie is technically a suspense thriller, but ultimately it's a love story about this man and his wife.

They meet in classic romantic style. Justin is very reserved; Tessa is incredibly passionate. Sparks fly immediately, and they are soon married. They have an understanding that he's not to interfere with her work as an activist, to which he mostly adheres. She's somewhat frustrated by what she sees as attempts to "reign her in", but for the most part they have a very happy marriage. When Tessa turns up dead, suspicious circumstances and rumors of Tessa's infidelity lead Justin to embark on a search for the truth, and he gets much more than he bargained for in the process.

Ralph Fiennes is "wow" here, as usual. I think this is an even better performance than he gave in The English Patient - though perhaps I just like the character more. He plays Justin's grief, jealousy, suspicion and fear at just the right volume - very understated, which is so perfect for his character's unassuming nature. I loved how the movie made me root for Justin, feel betrayed for him, and hope along with him that the rumors of Tessa's extramarital affairs had been greatly exaggerated. Tessa was a woman with many secrets, and Justin spends the movie learning them, and in the process falling more and more in love with her.

The look of the film is really wonderful, too. Meirelles has a way of making people look raw and real and good all at the same time. This is a great movie - great actors, great camera work, great music, great writing. Really amazing movie.

5 comments:

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