February is the month that raves about love. It’s also Awards Season, culminating with the Oscars. With all the competing productions on the big screen, are you getting a bit overwhelmed by now? Or maybe a little indigestion even?

Here’s a little gem of a film, like lemon sorbet, simple and fresh, just to clear the palette. It’s only recently that I come across this DVD dated a few years back. O what a find! I took it out from the public library, have watched it three times, and maybe more before I ultimately return it.

Directed by David Yates (State of Play, TV) and written by the screenwriter who has brought us Bridget Jones’s Diary, Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually… Richard Curtis, The Girl in the Cafe is a reason why we should not dismiss TV movies or those that go directly from production to DVD.

The Girl in the Cafe

The story begins with a chance encounter. Lawrence (Bill Nighy, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) is an aging civil servant, a senior-level analyst working for the British Chancellor (Ken Stott). During one coffee break Lawrence, single, well no, married to his job, shares a table with a girl Gina (Kelly Macdonald, Dolly in Anna Karenina) in a crowded cafe. Thus sparks a genuine connection between the two. On a whim, Lawrence asks Gina to accompany him to attend the G8 Summit in Reykjavík, Iceland, the following week.

What’s that? Gina asks. Right, a most incompatible relationship. But just because of that, the drama, and conflict, sparks off. Lawrence’s shy demeanour fits perfectly with Gina’s quiet composure. But for both actors, their restrained and understated performance form the very essence of this charming and thought-provoking film.

Once there in Reykjavík, Gina is appalled by the facts she learns about world poverty from Lawrence, like, one child dying in every three seconds. She takes a very personal stance on the success of the Millenium Development Goals to fight extreme poverty. While heavy police force keeps protesters out of the Conference venue, Gina becomes one small voice that speaks out from inside, genuine and innocent among seasoned politicians, albeit bringing Lawrence unexpected ambivalence. Some may find it uncomfortable to watch this scenario, but I feel it is one that deserves to be played out, and definitely to be heard.

What grabs me right away as the movie begins is the soul stirring song ‘Cold Water’ as the images of Lawrence going by his daily routine all alone. At coffee break, he steps into the crowded cafe, and finds another soul also alone. It’s gratifying and a pleasure to watch them connect and warm up to each other in a most genuine and tender manner.

As the film ends, ‘Cold Water’ reprises, but by now I see the parallel. Not only do Lawrence and Gina reach out for human connectedness and love, the millions of dying children in extreme poverty are also uttering these words of the lyrics:

“Cold water surrounds me now.
And all I’ve got is your hand.
Lord can you hear me now?
Lord can you hear me now?
Lord can you hear me now?
Or am I lost?”

Don’t we all need a helping hand for the different kinds of hunger we experience as human? The song and the music in the film augment its impact in a quiet and haunting way.

Bill Nighy owns the role of Lawrence. His self-deprecating and gentle manner fits in perfectly with Kelly Macdonald’s authentic and genuine Gina. The two have such connectedness in their performance that they earned Golden Globes nomination for Best Actor and Actress the following year.

The DVD came with special features which include director and screenwriter’s commentary. That is definitely a bonus after viewing the film. From there I found out Nighy and Macdonald were in the British TV series State of Play before doing The Girl in the Cafe. So that’s exactly what I did… went to the library to borrow the DVD’s of the TV series, and binged-watched all six episodes, which I highly recommend as well.

~ ~ ~ Ripples


Watch on YouTube Damien Rice’s ‘Cold Water’ with lyrics.


Read my other reviews on films about love:

I’ve Loved You So Long

Away From Her

Never Let Me Go