The Constant Gardener (film)

The Constant Gardener is a 2005 thriller film directed by Fernando Meirelles. The screenplay by Jeffrey Caine is based on John le Carré's novel of the same name (2001). The story follows Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes), a British diplomat in Kenya, as he tries to solve the murder of his wife Tessa (Rachel Weisz), an Amnesty activist, alternating with many flashbacks telling the story of their love.

The Constant Gardener
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFernando Meirelles
Produced bySimon Channing Williams
Gail Egan
Screenplay byJeffrey Caine
Based onThe Constant Gardener
by John le Carré
StarringRalph Fiennes
Rachel Weisz
Danny Huston
Bill Nighy
Pete Postlethwaite
Music byAlberto Iglesias
Robert Church
CinematographyCésar Charlone
Edited byClaire Simpson
Distributed byFocus Features
Release date
  • 31 August 2005 (2005-08-31) (United States)
  • 11 November 2005 (2005-11-11) (United Kingdom)
Running time
129 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
United States
Budget$25 million[1]
Box office$82.4 million[1]

The film was filmed on location in Loiyangalani and the slums of Kibera, a section of Nairobi, Kenya. Circumstances in the area affected the cast and crew to the extent that they set up the Constant Gardener Trust in order to provide basic education for these villages. The plot was vaguely based on a real-life case in Kano, Nigeria. The DVD versions were released in the United States on 1 January 2006 and in the United Kingdom on 13 March 2006. Justin's gentle but diligent attention to his plants is a recurring background theme, from which image the film's title is derived. Hubert Koundé, Danny Huston, Bill Nighy, Pete Postlethwaite and Donald Sumpter co-star. The film was a critical and box office success and earned four Oscar nominations, winning Best Supporting Actress for Rachel Weisz.


Justin Quayle, a low-level British diplomat and horticultural hobbyist posted in Kenya, learns that his wife Tessa was found dead in the veld. Tessa has been murdered at a crossroads along with her Kenyan driver. Her colleague, Dr. Arnold Bluhm, initially suspected of her murder, is then found to have been murdered on the same day as Tessa. Various rumours abound that the two were having an affair; it is later revealed that Bluhm was gay.

In flashbacks, we see how in London, Justin met his future wife Tessa, an outspoken humanitarian and Amnesty International activist. He falls in love with her, and she persuades him to take her back with him to Kenya. Despite their loving marriage, Tessa keeps from Justin the reason why she approached him in the first place: to investigate a suspicious drug trial in Kenya and expose it. When Tessa starts getting too close to uncovering the malpractices of an influential and powerful pharmaceutical company, she and her colleague are brutally murdered.

As the mystery surrounding his wife's death unfolds, Justin becomes determined to get to the bottom of her murder. He soon runs up against a drug corporation that is using Kenya's population for fraudulent testing of a tuberculosis drug. The drug has known harmful side effects, but the corporation completely disregards the well-being of its impoverished African test subjects.

Sir Bernard Pellegrin heads the Africa Desk at the Foreign Office and is the boss both of Justin and the British High Commissioner, Sandy Woodrow. In his investigations, Justin discovers that Tessa hid from him a report about the deaths caused by Dypraxa, and he obtains an incriminating letter that Tessa took from Sandy. Justin confronts Sandy, who tells him that what Tessa wanted was to stop the Dypraxa tests and redesign the drug. However, this would have cost millions of dollars and significantly delayed the drug's release, during which time other competing drugs would have surfaced. Pellegrin considered Tessa's report too damaging and proclaimed she had to be stopped. The company threatens Justin: he must stop his investigations or meet his wife's fate. In one instance, agents are sent to beat him up.

Still determined, Justin takes a UN aid plane to the village where the doctor lives who provided Tessa with the clinical data behind her report. The doctor gives Justin a copy of the report, but the village is raided by armed tribesmen on horseback, and Justin and the doctor are forced to flee from the carnage. Justin has the plane drop him off at the place where Tessa died. There he thinks about Tessa; he tells her memory that he knows all her secrets, that he understands her now, and that he is coming home. Following his reverie, he is killed in an organized hit.

At Tessa and Justin's funeral, Justin's lawyer reads the incriminating letter written by Pellegrin to Woodrow. In the letter, Pellegrin ordered the surveillance of Tessa, expressly to block her reports detailing the deaths caused by Dypraxa, and explains that the company could not be held responsible for the Dypraxa deaths if it never officially received the reports. The scandal having been revealed, Pellegrin leaves the ceremony followed by journalists.


Inspiration and Themes

The plot of the film is loosely based on a real-life case in Kano, Nigeria involving antibacterial testing on small children.

The film's title derives from Justin's gentle but diligent attention to his plants, a recurring background theme that informs his patience and persistence.


The film was shot on location in Loiyangalani and the slums of Kibera, a section of Nairobi, Kenya. Circumstances in the area affected the cast and crew to the extent that they set up the Constant Gardener Trust in order to provide basic education for these villages.


Box office

The film's worldwide gross was $82,466,670.

Critical response

On the film aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, The Constant Gardener has a "Certified Fresh" score of 83%, based on 189 critical reviews, with an average rating of 7.6/10 The consensus reads, "The Constant Gardener is a smart, gripping, and suspenseful thriller with rich performances from the leads."[2] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called it "one of the year's best films."[3] USA Today noted that the film's "passion, betrayal, gorgeous cinematography, social commentary, stellar performances and clever wit puts it in a special category near perfection". However, Michael Atkinson of The Village Voice criticized the film as "a cannonballing mélange of hack-cuts, impressionistic close-ups, and tropical swelter."[4]


The film was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing, and Best Supporting Actress (Weisz). Weisz won both an Oscar and Golden Globe for her performance. The film was also nominated for two other Golden Globe Awards: Best Motion Picture (Drama), and Best Director. Additionally, Weisz won the 2005 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role.

The film was nominated for 10 BAFTA Awards, including Best Film and Best Director. It also won the award for Best Editing.

The film won the award for Best Film at the London Critics Circle Film Awards, British Independent Film Awards, and Evening Standard British Film Awards. The film also received the San Diego Film Critics Society Awards.

Author's dedication and afterword

John le Carré, in the first edition of the 2001 novel on which the film is based, provided both a dedication and a personal afterword. The dedication and part of the afterword (amended) are reproduced in the closing credits of the film. The first states: "This film is dedicated to Yvette Pierpaoli and all other aid workers who lived and died giving a damn". The latter continues (in the next credit): "Nobody in this story, and no outfit or corporation, thank God, is based upon an actual person or outfit in the real world, but I can tell you this, as my journey through the pharmaceutical jungle progressed, I came to realize that, by comparison with the reality, my story was as tame as a holiday postcard". The text appears over John le Carré's name.

See also


  1. "The Constant Gardener (2005)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  2. "The Constant Gardener (2005)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  3. Ebert, Roger (1 September 2005). "The Constant Gardener review". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  4. Atkinson, Michael (23 August 2005). "Cold Comfort Pharm". The Village Voice. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
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