Untitled Document In the tense, conspiracy laced thriller The Constant Gardener, currently in theaters, City of God director Fernando Merielles gives audiences a look at a bleakly disturbing real-world situation without trying to skew it in one direction or the other. Gardener, which stars Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz as a husband and wife living in Kenya with two completely different work agendas, is a gripping film wrapped in politics. However, the film doesn’t – thank goodness – get wrapped up in anybody’s political agenda. It’s naturally gripping and suspenseful, yet tender and tearful all at the same time, partly because of the edgy subject matter and partly because of the heartfelt performances, seamless direction and raw, varied cinematography.

The film begins in the middle of the overall story, with an espadrille-clad Tessa (Weisz) heading off on a small plane with an African doctor escort. Her husband, Justin (Fiennes), is seeing her off. The next time we see Tessa, she’s sprawled out on a bloody table in a Kenyan morgue. Apparently, because of her work – the majority of which she’s been keeping secret from her husband – she was the target of someone’s brutal plan.

The sudden loss of his wife leads a heartbroken Justin down a path filled with endless questions and queries. As a British diplomat, he tries to get information about his wife’s death from both English and Kenyan sources. All he knows is his wife died because of something having to do with drug testing on sick people in poor countries. He’ll spend the rest of the film trying to figure out exactly why – and by whose hand – Tessa died.

Aside from Merielles’ skilled and seamless direction – which is complemented by a mix of both smooth and rugged cinematography – the real key ingredients that make the story in Gardener work are the understated, yet skillful, performances by both Fiennes and Weisz. Also noteworthy in the film are supporting players Bill Nighy (as one of Fiennes' harsh colleagues), Richard McCabe (as Tessa’s do-gooder cousin) and Pete Postlethwaite.

Grade: A-

—Abbi Toushin

The Constant Gardener is currently in theaters.