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THE CONSTANT GARDENER

movie trailer (quicktime)

NOTE: This Spoiler was sent in by Jacqueline.

The movie opens with a black screen. We hear two voices, saying goodbye to each other. The woman is telling the man that there is no need to see her off.

Visuals are introduced, and we see Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes), standing next to his wife, Tessa Quayle (Rachel Weisz). A prop plane stands in the background. They are in Kenya. Justin continues his goodbye, and tells Tessa to be careful. Tessa kisses him and promises to be home soon from Loki. Justin waves goodbye, and says goodbye to Arnold (Hubert Kounde), who is accompanying Tessa on her trip.

As Tessa boards the plane, Justin flashes back to when they first met. Justin was giving a speech in London as a member of the British High Commission. The lecture subject was on the virtues of diplomacy when he was interrupted by Tessa, who asked a series of questions related to British foreign policy with regards to Iraq, and whether diplomatic avenues were really exhausted before war was declared. Most of the crowd starts booing Tessa, and many start to leave. Justin, however, answers her questions – though somewhat ineffectively. The room empties, leaving the two alone. Tessa is upset at her outburst, and apologizes for being rude. Justin is gracious and they two end up going back to Tessa’s flat. They sleep together. Tessa tells Justin that he makes her feel safe.

Back in the present, Justin is in his office in Kenya, tending to a couple of his plants. Sandy Woodrow (Danny Huston), a colleague of Justin’s at the High Commission, comes in with some bad news. He gently tells Justin that Tessa was found dead near Loki, with a black driver in an overturned Jeep. Dr. Arnold Bluhm was nowhere to be found. Justin’s reaction is understated and controlled. He thanks Sandy for passing on the news.

Another flashback, this time, Justin is packing up in his London office, presumably as preparation for his assignment in Kenya. Tessa turns up and asks that he bring her along. He hesitates, and tells her that she will need to be some sort of relative/family member to qualify. She asks to go as his wife. Justin is flattered by the implication that she has just proposed, but conflicted with the knowledge that the marriage is a means to an end. He agrees.

Back in the present, Justin and Sandy are at the morgue. They pass through a room with corpses lined up on tables – all African – until they come to a body with white skin. The coroner lifts the sheet and Justin recognizes the body to be that of Tessa’s. Sandy throws up. Justin’s countenance does not change, and we flash back again, to the days before Tessa left for Loki.

Tessa is walking through one of the towns/villages (my knowledge of Kenya is non-existent, so this is not going to be very accurate to what exists). It is a poor shantytown that lies alongside the railway track. Tessa is walking with Arnold, and the two seem to be flirting and also, at other moment, talking seriously about the project they are working on. There is a makeshift theatre, with a troupe performing. The subject matter is AIDs. A child comes up to Tessa and gives her a wind chime made out of bottle caps. She is delighted.

Tessa is pregnant and in the bath. Justin is playing with a camera that’s linked to Tessa’s computer (presumably used for a/v linkup). Justin returns to the computer and notes that there is a new email. He tells Tessa, who asks that he open it. Justin complies. The email to Tessa asks if Justin knew that Tessa was at the Grand Hyatt (or some equivalent) with Arnold. The implication here is that something was going on between Tessa and Arnold. Justin blinks and deletes the message, telling Tessa that it was junk email offering a free stay at the Grand Hyatt. Tessa believes him and doesn’t go any further.

Justin presses the Grand Hyatt and suggests that they take up that email offer and go for a free stay. Tessa demurs, saying that she was just there with Arnold and it wasn’t anything to write home about. Justin is shocked by Tessa admitting to being there with Arnold, but doesn’t say anything. Tessa hangs up the bottle cap wind chime and then asks if Arnold has thought more about what to name the baby. Tessa then suggests that they should name the baby Arnold if it’s a boy. Justin is taken aback, and insists that the baby will be a girl. They also argue about where Tessa is going to have the baby. Justin wants Tessa to go to the British military hospital (or equivalent) but Tessa insists on going to the local hospital.

Back in the present, Justin and Sandy leave the morgue. Sandy suggests that Justin put it all behind him, but insinuates that Arnold may have had Tessa killed because Tessa was cheating on Arnold with the driver of the jeep. Justin tells him it’s preposterous.

More flashbacks. This time, we are at a British High Commission event. Very fancy and well to do. We meet the Head of the High Commission – Sir Bernard Pellegrin (Bill Nighy) – who is meeting and greeting several high level officials from the Kenyan Health ministry. Tessa decides to confront the small group with Arnold. They challenge the High Commissions motives, and accuse the health ministry officials of selling out to the big budget drug companies and endangering the lives of poor Kenyans who need serious medical help. Pellegrin’s staff quickly separates Tessa from the “dignitaries”. Sandy, who has witnessed the whole thing, seeks out Justin and asks that he “rein Tess in”. Justin refuses to, saying that Tessa lives her life the way she wants to.

We see Tessa, later that night, at her computer, with an a/v hookup with another woman, talking about how bad the situation is getting. Tessa says she is close to finishing up her report on what the big pharmaceutical companies are doing in Kenya and will be passing it along to someone at the High Commission.

We cut to Justin walking quickly through a hospital. He looks worried and harried. He walks into a ward, where Tessa is a patient. She is sitting up and nursing a baby child. The baby’s skin is dark. Arnold is sitting by the bed. Justin sits down on the other side and tries to reason with Tessa about going to another hospital. Tessa says no. She looks over at another bed where a Kenyan woman is receiving medicine. She tells Justin that the doctors are killing her on purpose. The boy standing by the Kenyan woman comes over to Tessa. Tessa hands over the baby she is nursing to the boy, who returns the baby to the arms of the dying woman. We then find out that Tessa lost her baby in childbirth.

Sandy arrives at the hospital. Arnold is requested to go attend to a patient. Tessa asks Justin to bring her some water. When they are alone, Tessa tells Sandy that the dying woman, whose last name is Kilulu, is being killed on purpose by the drug companies. Sandy is disbelieving. Tessa tells him that she has proof that the drug companies are testing their drugs on poor women in Kenya and not reporting the deadly side effects and women are dying because of it. Sandy still refuses to believe her, but Tessa insists that she has a report and makes him promise to pass it on to Pellegrin at the High Commission. Sandy promises.

Tessa indeed passes the report on, and we see her confronting Sandy at his house, asking if he’s had a response from Pellegrin. Sandy says yes, but only in form of a letter, which he is not allowed to share. Tessa promises to sleep with Sandy if he gives her the letter. Sandy agrees, and sets up a “date” with Tessa after her trip to Loki.

We cut to Justin working in his garden. He goes to the porch where Tessa and Arnold are talking, and overhears Tessa say, “… this is nothing but a marriage of convenience that produces dead babies.” Justin apologizes for interrupting, but Tessa goes into a rage when she sees the pesticide box that he is holding in his hands. She storms out. Arnold assures Justin that she will be back and asks him to be patient.

That night, it is raining hard and Tessa is late home. Justin is up waiting for her. When she comes in from the rain, Justin asks her to stop working on her project. Tessa refuses, saying that it is too important and they are too close. She insists on going to Loki the next day.

We then cut back to the scene at the beginning of the movie with Tessa and Arnold saying goodbye to Justin.

We come back to the present and move very quickly through scenes of Justin trying to figure out what Tessa’s work was about. He travels to London, where he meets up with her cousin, Ham (Richard McCabe) and nephew Guido (Rupert Simonian). Guido is a teen computer whiz and hacks into Tessa’s server and retrieves all sorts of documents and emails. Justin recognizes the logo of one of the companies Tessa was investigating – it is the same company (called Three Bees) that makes the pesticide he uses. Turns out that the company was distributing and marketing drugs that are manufactured by DHS (a big global pharma company) – and, specifically in Kenya, an experimental drug called Dypraxa. Dypraxa is a very effective against a new strain of tuberculosis (which is apparently going to sweep through the world, making Dypraxa a multi-billion dollar blockbuster drug if approved). However, Dypraxa also kills people.

As Justin retraces Tessa’s steps, he finds out that DHS and the Three Bees have partnered up to distribute all sorts of medicines in Kenya – but in order for those who need the medicines to get what they need, they need to sign a consent form that signs them up for the Dypraxa study. Justin also finds a love letter to Tessa from Sandy and fears the worst.

As Justin gets closer to what Tessa knew, he starts getting anonymous threats, telling him to stop before what happened to Tessa happens to him. He continues unfazed, and tracks down the woman with whom Tessa was having the a/v hookup conversation. The woman gives Justin more leads, taking him all the way to Pellegrin. Other facts come up, including DHS not willing to re-engineer the drug because of the hundreds or so deaths that have been caused by Dypraxa. DHS was apparently not going to report the side effects. One other important revelation was that Dr. Arnold Bluhme was gay, and therefore could not, in any way, have been having an affair with Tessa.

Justin flies back to the UK and meets up with Pellegrin for lunch. . It comes out that the British High Commission owed DHS a favor (after persuading DHS to open a manufacturing plant in the UK). The High Commission was responsible for brokering and protecting the “marriage” between DHS and Three Bees. Pellegrin then off-handedly mentions that the letter was regrettable. Justin thinks Pellegrin is referring to Sandy’s letter and agrees, but says it’s out of his control. Pellegrin says it was in a moment of anger that he wrote the letter and it shouldn’t have been written then. Justin then asks for clarification – and lies through it, saying that he indeed has that letter after finding it in Tessa’s diary. Pellegrin is shocked, “I didn’t know Tessa has a diary.” Justin understands that more eyes are on him than he had previously estimated.

Justin decides to go to Loki. There, he finds Dr. Marcus Lorbeer (who was administering drugs to the dying woman – Kilulu – in the Kenya hospital), who has been sent to Loki by DHS. We find out that he has a copy of Tessa’s report, and also a copy of Pellegrin’s letter to Sandy.

Justin mails the letter and the report to Ham, and sets off to the location of Tessa’s death. There, Justin imagines talking to Tessa, saying that he knows all her secrets, and how he wishes she had trusted him. She replies, telling him that she was only trying to protect him. He says she is his home, and he will be coming home soon.

We cut to the inside of a Church in England. Sir Bernard is giving Justin’s eulogy, saying that he committed suicide at the very place where Tessa died. He lauds Justin’s service to the High Commission and his love for Tessa. Ham then takes the stage and reads Pellegrin’s letter. The letter reveals how Pellegrin was complicit in the Dypraxa scandal, how he threatened to end Tessa’s life, and how he vowed to protect DHS at all costs. Ham also noted that Justin was killed from bullets from three guns.

We cut back to Justin, sitting in the middle of the desert, turning to face three men with guns – probably men from DHS, sent to finish the job. He turns to them with a subtle smile, and complete peace in his eyes.

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