Tessa is a sort of ambiguous character for me – on the one hand it’s easy to admire her work and her determination to help poor people but on the other hand she is also incredibly...stupid when it comes to her work. An intelligent woman like her should be a little more ‘realistic’ when it comes to fighting in Africa – does she really think that running around and insulting powerful people right and left will help her in any way? Her interest for the live of a young woman in a hospital is admirable but does she even think about her own, dead child for one second? So it is very easy to love Tessa for what she wants to do but also easy to criticise her for how she does it.
But what does all this mean for Rachel Weisz? Well, she is somehow able to ‘sell’ this character – the finds the perfect balance between determination and hesitation, she is powerful without being annoying, charming without being cute. It’s a strong and memorable characterization that helps to turn Tessa into a believable, multidimensional character whose struggle and fights become much more captivating than the screenplay could accomplish.
Right from her first moments on-screen, Rachel Weisz is perfectly able to combine her British charm with a more cosmopolite attitude. From her first meeting with Justin (don’t you just love the way she says ‘So do labradors’?) to her plea to take her to Africa she builds the foundation of the story that follows and creates a beautiful and realistic chemistry with Ralph Fiennes. She’s able to create a character that is not only realistic but one that actually captivates the viewer, a character you want to know more about and spend more time with and even though her terrible fate is clear right from the beginning, it still an incredibly loss and shock when it actually does happen.
In the hospital the intentions of her character may not be truly clear but Rachel Weisz is still heartbreaking and powerful when she pleads to Sandy to help her. And later, she communicates so much spoken, unspoken and hidden words when she tries to convince Sandy to give her an important letter.
In some ways, Tessa may only be the set-up for the rest of the story but Rachel Weisz creates Tessa as a domineering presence – when she appears again at the end of the movie, it becomes clear how strong her influence and her presence really are.
It’s a performance that grew on me and that may continue to grow on me in the future – a powerful and dedicated performance that created one of the most fascinating characters in this category.