Parents' Guide to

The Constant Gardener

By Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Government intrigue in Africa, for older teens+.

Movie R 2005 130 minutes
The Constant Gardener Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 18+

Based on 1 parent review

age 18+

Must See for Adults

The Constant Gardener is , without doubt, one of the best and most important movies of recent times. That being said, it is in NO way a movie for kids, tweens, or teens. The film follows the story of a couple, Tessa and Justin, who live in Kenya where Justin is a complacent gardening diplomat working for the British government. Tessa is a fiery whip-smart investigator who catches on to a sinister plot between the British drug companies and local authorities which Justin does not believe exists. For her curiosity, she pays the ultimate price, and Justin begins to realize the truth behind his wife's murder, and vows to discover ad expose the forces behind it. What follows is a brutally violent, emotionally wrenching, beautifully filmed, and deeply affecting account of Justin's quest. This film deserves a thoughtful, mature, and strong-stomached audience. Adults only.

This title has:

Too much violence

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (1):
Kids say: Not yet rated

THE CONSTANT GARDENER is often lovely, sometimes harrowing, and always perceptive. Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles' film traces Justin's shift from trusting, go-along bureaucrat to skeptical, resolute, and increasingly fervent investigator. While this part of the plot is rooted in the film's source, John le Carré's 2001 novel, it doesn't lead to the usual action-packing. Indeed, Justin is more melancholic than heroic, and The Constant Gardener is more meditative than thrilling. Instead, the film focuses on his emotional and political awakening (shown in flashbacks) and his changing responses to Tessa's death.

When Justin travels to Kenya, where Tessa was working with a doctor, Arnold (Hubert Koundé), the movie takes off visually. It contrasts the interiors of urban, well-heeled London with Africa's vast landscapes and poverty, at once breathtaking and oppressive. Justin's memories of Tessa are all shimmery and lovely (except when he accuses her of betrayal, and they argue). And Justin blames himself for not keeping her "safe," making himself miserable, but also pushing him to pursue whatever "truth" he imagines exists. As much as Tessa and Justin work as characters (thanks to subtle performances by both actors), they are troubling as bits of the larger context as they appear to be yet another set of white figures used to dramatize, and frame a black African story.

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