The Constant Gardener

The Constant Gardener (2005)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Hubert Kounde, Danny Huston, Daniele Harford
Extras: Deleted Scenes, Featurettes

Director Fernando Meirelles (City of God) brings the John Le Carré novel "The Constant Gardener" to the screen as his latest project. Beautiful cinematography from Cesar Charlone captures the distinctive beauty of the coastal region of Kenya incorporated with some filmed sequences that feature rough handheld camerawork, almost providing a documentary feel at times, which may take a little getting used to. Delightfully acted and splendidly written tale outlines the melancholic story of Justin Quale (Ralph Fiennes), a British diplomat searching for answers concerning his activist wife, Tessa's (Rachel Weisz) tragic and mysterious death while in a secluded region of Northern Kenya.

Playing out through various flashback sequences, we don't truly understand the full reason or impact for that matter, of Tessa's demise until we are deep into the story. Almost immediately, Justin becomes the main suspect in Tessa's death. Thinking that his innocence will easily surface, Justin soon realizes that the odds might be stacked against him. Taking it upon himself to uncover more details into Tessa's death, Justin soon discovers that she had been leading a secret life, one of possible infidelity and hidden research that could expose a large pharmaceutical conspiracy. Attempting to continue the fact finding mission brings Justin dangerously close to his own demise. Tense and unnerving at times, "The Constant Gardener" plays out on the global stage as a political thriller and as a touching love story. I will admit to feeling a bit lost during this film, but once I became accustomed to the rather unconventional style of the presentation, I quickly became enshrouded in the deep underlying perplexity of a not so easily forgettable experience.

Universal Home Entertainment releases the Focus Features presentation of "The Constant Gardener" on DVD in fine form. Offering a rough and intentional look to coincide with the informal delivery of the story, the transfer showcases a mélange of high contrast stark whites, slightly pale and washed skin tones even fine grain is noticeable during the exhibition. All of which, is purely intentional. Good color saturation is evident throughout various aerial shots of the Northern Kenya coastline, with deep rich blacks offering impeccable detailing where implemented. There is no visible evidence of dust or dirt particles contained within this presentation of "The Constant Gardener".

Sound wise, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack provides a relatively conservative presentation. The most active speaker is the center channel in the delivery of vocals that are naturally reproduced. Sound is applied to all available channels where needed, but the exhibition might seem to be an insufficient, in terms of bass or use of surrounds.

A selection of special features include over ten minutes of deleted scenes and a separate extended scene titled "Haruma – Play in Kibera", which I found to be beneficial to view.

The highlight of this section is a featurette titled "John Le Carre: From Page to the Screen", where the writer stresses how his work is no longer written with a big budgeted blockbuster in mind, as so many writers these days do, rather focusing on providing a solid story for novel form that stays true to his original idea. It's also interesting to note that upon his early inception of "The Constant Gardener", he had planned to base the story around an oil theme, rather than pharmaceutical conspiracy.

The featurette "Anatomy of a Global Thriller: Behind the Scenes of The Constant Gardener" gives us a behind-the-scenes peek at the film with a selection of cast and crew interviews that is pretty formulaic in presentation.

A compelling love story intertwined with a thrilling drama makes up this highly regarded film, "The Constant Gardener". With Rachel Weisz garnering a Golden Globe Award for her performance of Tessa Quale, I can bet we will be hearing the announcement of more praise for this film in the coming months, possibly an Academy award or two, which is deservedly fitting.