The Constant Gardener

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(2005) ★★½

ITV3: Sunday 6 December, 10pm

Kenya’s British High Commission believes unassuming diplomat Ralph Fiennes won’t make a fuss after his wife is found murdered in the parched desolation of Lake Turkana. But the polite, reserved Fiennes – happiest when pottering in his garden – digs deep to find out what really happened to passionate activist Rachel Weisz, the wife he knew hardly at all.

The film of John Le Carré’s novel becomes a love story told in extended flashbacks. A bit of a chinless wonder, the fumbling Fiennes has his eyes opened not only to the depth of feeling he has for his free-spirited wife, but also to the criminal exploitation of dirt-poor blacks in Africa by the major pharmaceutical companies in Europe and America.

The Africans are guinea pigs for the side-effects of a new ‘miracle’ TB cure. It’s a tawdry affair because it’s all about greed, secrets and lies. “Put fifty thousand dollars in the right hands,” says a weary aid worker, “and you can test battery acid as skin lotion.” Directed by Brazilian Fernando Meirelles – the highly touted director of City of God – it’s a more sure-footed film than Andrew Niccol’s gun-running equivalent, Lord of War.

It looks fine – it could have ‘prestige production for your consideration’ stencilled on every frame – but, without hedging any bets, it’s not especially involving, nor exciting (in this respect, it somewhat resembles The English Patient). The acting’s good – Weisz picked up an Oscar for her sketch of the obsessive activist – and the humour’s bitter. Donald Sumpter’s secret service man is described as someone who knows everything. “Only God knows everything,” demurs Sumpter. “And He’s working for Mossad.”

Certificate: 15

Duration: 128min

IMDB – The Constant Gardener

TMDB – The Constant Gardener

Rotten Tomatoes – The Constant Gardener

Other Showings Date & Time
ITV3 Saturday, 12 December at 12:35AM