The Girl in the Café
The Girl in the Café is a British made-for-television drama film directed by David Yates, written by Richard Curtis and produced by Hilary Bevan Jones. The film is produced by the independent production company Tightrope Pictures and was originally screened on BBC One in the United Kingdom on 25 June 2005. It was also shown in the United States on cable television station Home Box Office on the same day. Bill Nighy portrays the character of Lawrence, with Kelly Macdonald portraying Gina. Nighy and Macdonald had previously starred together in the 2003 BBC serial State of Play, which was also directed by Yates and produced by Bevan-Jones. The Girl in the Café's casting director is Fiona Weir who, at the time, was also the casting director for the Harry Potter films, the last four of which Yates directed.
|The Girl in the Café|
|Written by||Richard Curtis|
|Directed by||David Yates|
Marit Velle Kile
|Theme music composer||Nicholas Hooper|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|Producer(s)||Hilary Bevan Jones|
|Running time||94 minutes|
|Production company(s)||BBC Wales|
|Original network||BBC One|
|Picture format||16:9 576i|
|Original release||25 June 2005|
The film was noted at the 58th Primetime Emmy Awards, where it received seven nominations and won Outstanding Made for Television Movie, Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special for Curtis, and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for Macdonald.
The film tells the story of Lawrence (Bill Nighy), a civil servant working for the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Ken Stott), who falls in love with Gina (Kelly Macdonald), a young woman whom he meets by chance in a London café. Lawrence takes Gina to a G8 summit in Reykjavík, Iceland, where she confronts the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (Corin Redgrave) over the issue of third world debt and poverty in Africa, much to Lawrence's embarrassment and the anger of his employers. However, he realises that she is right and tries to help persuade the Chancellor and others at the summit to do something about the issues concerned.
The production was conceived to tie-in both with the BBC's Africa Lives season of programming, and with the global Make Poverty History campaign, for which writer Curtis was a prominent campaigner. As such, it was also shown in South Africa on the same day as its UK and US premieres. Curtis was better-known as a writer of romantic comedy films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Love Actually (the latter of which he also directed and had featured Nighy). Although The Girl in the Café does contain some of his trademark comedy elements, it is generally more serious in tone and attempts to highlight the issues of poverty and fair trade.
On BBC One, the programme gained an audience of 5.5 million, a 29% share of the total television audience watching over its ninety-minute duration, winning its timeslot. The opinions, however, were divided.
No one among a first rate cast seemed sure if they were in a lightweight film with a heavyweight theme or a heavyweight film with lightly drawn characters. The tone was strangely solemn and the atmosphere cold, as though the film-makers had done a crash course in serious European cinema and decided that the key to its success was stilted conversation... There will be those who will argue that the normal critical judgments ought not to apply when the cause is so worthy. But drama is no more exempt from protest than economics.
Sarah Vine, being herself a wife to a conservative politician, argued in The Times that the message was devalued by the oversimplification of the problem. In her opinion the main weakness of the film is the belief that the leaders of G8 can do anything to actually handle poverty.:
The Girl in the Café had one unforgivable and entirely avoidable flaw: oversimplification. Presenting a complex issue in such a one-dimensional way is not only patronising, it also devalues the message. Michael Moore-ism has its place in this world, but not on the BBC, and not at the taxpayer's expense.[...] It is deeply wrong that 30,000 children should die each day because of poverty. But it is equally wrong to suggest that eight men in a room, however deep their pockets or willing their hearts, can simply wave a magic wand and make it all go away.
The film may seem preachy and quixotic, but actually, celebrity finger-pointing seems to work. The film tries to humanize a vast, complex problem, not through the African victims, but through pampered Western protagonists who lack the courage of their convictions. That approach is not consistent with the structure of the film. It doesn't matter. The awkward romance is compelling, mostly because Mr. Nighy is so good.
Though I am convinced by the need to take radical action against extreme poverty, I recognise that others are doubtful. But what I find so moving about The Girl in the Café... is its absolute belief in the power of drama to transform thinking.
Macdonald and Nighy were both nominated at the 2006 Golden Globe Awards for their performances in the production, while the film and Macdonald received Emmy wins. David Yates and Fiona Weir were also nominated at the Emmy Awards for Outstanding Directing and Casting respectively.
- Timms, Dominic (Monday 27 June 2005). Murray means game, set, match for BBC (subscription). Retrieved 24 September 2005.
- Anthony, Andrew. Bill v Ben. The Observer. Sunday 26 June 2005.
- Sarah Vine, Michael Gove’s wife, on her long election night’s journey The Times. Sunday 8 May 2010.
- Vine, Sarah. Making a rom-com out of a crisis. The Times. Monday 27 June 2005.
- Stanley, Alessandre. TV Review – 'The Girl in the Cafe'. The New York Times. 25 June 2005.
- Crompton, Sarah. The arts column: two routes to the heart of Africa. The Daily Telegraph. 8 June 2005.