25 June 2005 | lavatch
It is rare indeed to experience a film that successfully blends comedy with a strong social message. "The Girl in the Café" is just such a film!
The first half of the firm is primarily quirky romantic comedy as a pencil-pushing, workaholic diplomat has a chance meeting with a young woman, and the couple share a table in a crowded café. The relationship of Lawrence (Bill Nighy) and Gina (Kelly Macdonald) then proceeds in fits and starts...mainly in fits!
There is obviously an attraction between the two characters. But the main problem is the diffidence of Lawrence, whose character redefines the concept of "British reserve." Based upon the shy and reluctant deportment of Lawrence, it is difficult to see how Great Britain was ever able to "people" its great Empire! One of the offbeat lines shared by Lawrence and Gina in a restaurant is: "I scrubbed up for you, tonight." The words "nice," "handsome," "beautiful," or even "You look good, tonight" are not available to characters so maladroit in their social graces.
The second half of the film moves into the area of politics when Lawrence invites Gina to the international G8 Summit meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland. It is there that Gina has some surprises for Lawrence and for the politicians at the conference. As brilliantly played by Kelly Macdonald, Gina delivers passionate and impromptu pleas to address the problems of world hunger, poverty, and AIDS. Gina's speeches are some of the most memorable moments in the film.
While the romantic relationship between Lawrence and Gina continues to unfold, it is the social and political side of the story that dominates the final portion of the film. Here, there is no shilly-shallying around on the part of Gina, as she boldly plants the seeds for social action. Ultimately, a question that emerges is whether or not an unassuming individual like Gina can single-handedly make a difference in her world, and the answer delivered by this gem of a film is a resounding "Yes."