The Constant Gardener Review
Fernando Meirelles' The Constant Gardener is less than the sum of its parts. Meirelles constantly moving camera and his frenetic editing certainly help build the suspense, the discomfort, and the unease of the characters in the film. The screenplay offers a first-rate mystery augmented by the perfect amount of marriage drama. The performances are all first-rate with Rachel Weisz showing enough ferocity to actually hold the screen even when Meirelles will not allow a scene to stay on screen for more than a few seconds. The problem is that the visuals are so exhausting that a viewer is likely to be too overwhelmed and simply thankful when the film (comparatively) slows down during some extended dialogue passages that should allow the viewer to catch up on the complicated plot. Those scenes should hook the viewer with the psychology of Ralph Finnes' character, but instead one is likely to simply be thankful that the constant barrage of images has ceased momentarily. I was underwhelmed by Meirelles first film, City of God, finding it stylish without substance (and containing one personally offensive scene involving guns being held on a pair of small children who are crying in fear - I for one refuse to believe there was any acting going on with the amateur performers in that scene). This film has substance, but the style doesn't allow it to connect with an audience. Meirelles may yet make a really good film, but he also might turn into someone who believes style can turn on a viewer's emotions no matter if the subject matter deserves a different approach - a situation that would make him the arthouse Tony Scott.