Constant Gardener
Ralph’s eyes aren’t quite focused on Rachel’s … and she knows it.


Golden Mug

2005 GOLDEN MUGS

WINNER:

Best Film Editing (Claire Simpson)

NOMINEE:

Best Actor (Ralph Fiennes)
Best Supporting Actress (Rachel Weisz)


Theatrical Release Date: 08/31/2005
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Bill Nighy, Pete Postlethwaite

I had heard a lot of hype about “The Constant Gardener” before I got to see it this week. Aside from the great reviews, the film boasted the director of “City of God”, Fernando Meirelles, and was based on a novel by John Le Carré. It also features a very impressive cast, including Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Bill Nighy and Pete Postlethwaite. While all of that is well and good, I did find my initial viewing of the film to be a little jarring.

That isn’t to say it’s a bad film. The actors provided good performances and the story was intriguing. But perhaps due to a spot placed before the trailers and certainly because of all the not-so-subtle reminders during the film, I felt like the film was more about sending a message about the problems in Africa than about telling a story. Maybe it was a central theme to the source novel but I’m not one who likes to be preached to or patronized.

Putting aside the humanitarian overtones, another aspect of the film I found distracting at first glance was the camera work. While it worked well in his previous effort, “City of God”, Meirelles’ use of handheld cameras for this film was annoying to say the least. With the advent of the steadicam, filmmakers worldwide are able to keep me from feeling like I’m on a boat in the middle of a tropical storm. And I’ll even forgive shots involving movement, but when your shooting a scene where two people are standing still and the camera is shaking like it’s being held by your great grandmother who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s, there’s a problem.

Continuing my rant on poor camera work, I was also annoyed with how Meirelles chose to frame his shots. Often shooting the scene tilted, or with the main characters off to one side, I spent more time wanting to adjust or steady the camera than I did in traffic on the way home from work.

That aside, there are good acting performances, especially from Weisz and Fiennes. While I’m not completely sold on their chemistry (mostly on his end), the tangled web that unfolds over the course of the film kept me intrigued – as I am a fan of Le Carré’s work (though I think I would enjoy reading the book slight more than watching this movie).

So in what could only best be described as a unforeseen twist, after all my complaining, I’m going to give “The Constant Gardener” a 4 out of 5. I’ll admit it took second and third viewings, but Meirelles’ erratic camera work grew on me and I now appreciate what he did from an artistic standpoint. The story is compelling and the actors are good all around. If you like socially motivated film, done by talented filmmakers and actors, this is a good one to check out – especially because on a smaller scale, even your HD widescreen TV, the camera issues are less apparent than on a 40 foot screen down at the googleplex.