Film I caught a taxi home tonight. After I'd given the destination the driver began shouting angrily about an incident which had happened to at Liverpool Hospital. Something to do with a woman leaving important documents in the back of a cab. I'm not actually sure because he was talking so much I had difficulty understanding what he was saying. Anyway he took me (without prompting) onto the subject of what I'd been doing this evening.
"What were you do thing this evening?" He asked.
"I was out."
"Were you working or drinking?"
"I was at the cinema."
"Oh. What did you see."
"A film called The Constant Gardener."
"I seen that. Didn't like it. I couldn't understand why it was called The Constant Gardener...."
Luckily he was parking up outside home so he didn't get to hear my review.

Here is my review.

The Constant Gardener is a conspiracy potboiler in the mould of The Defence of the Realm in which a diplomat (the titular gardener) played by Ralph Feinnes, in The English Patient mode, discovers that the very government he's working for has deep, dark, shadowy corners were very bad men do very ugly things. It's also a very tricky film to talk about because the opening moments present a surprise which is worth preserving for the new viewer. Anyone whose seen the film will know what that is and will understand why I'm being cagey. Suffice to say that it's the source of what follows, a match which burns the candle of the story through what become an inevitable end. Fiennes is note perfect, the establishment Englishman discovering his wife's secrets.

It's a vivid work, with an extraordinary visual style. Africa is portrayed by orangy National Geographic-style cinematography, jutting against the dark blues and greys of a London not too far removed from the images you'd expect from an ITV detective drama. It's an important distinction -- Kenya and Sudan are teeming with life, vibrant. Britain is dark, depressing and tragic, only ever golden when the Rachel Weitz, playing Feinnes wife is about. It's because she's at the heart of the piece, almost as though the sun follows her about. It's a typically luminous performance from Weitz and needs to be in the hell which belches forth at the film progresses.

It is a film which will receive some well deserved awards -- screenwriter Jeffrey Caine and director Fernando Meirelles have taken what could have been a still impressive potboiler and applied some mataphoric brilliance. If there's a problem it feels too long. The film clocks in at just over two hours with credits but there are key moments when the plot takes a break for some visuals or an action sequence when it needs to be driving forward. Critic Mark Kermode never tires of saying that most film would be better if fifteen minutes were edited out of them and I'm beginning to see his point, in relation to this film in particular. Once the point of the conspiracy is uncovered and Feinnes reaction and role in it, too many predictable things happen and the central themes and characterisation are fogged as the thing can't decide what kind of film it really wants or needs to be.

But really, that's a niggle. Perhaps this is one of those occasions when a second viewing will allow for the film to work as an experience, allow the viewer to luxuriate in the visuals and performances. I look forward to that.

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