As I said, I knew nothing about it. I only knew the male lead,Bill Nighy, because of the role he had in one of my favourite movies, "Love Actually", and there he was one of a cast featuring a veritable who's who of British cinema. Other than him, I don't think I recognised a single other name or face in "Girl in a Cafe". And perhaps that was part of the charm - because it didn't feel like a movie, it felt like a peek through a window left ajar, into lives, not into movie script. The storyline is borderline preposterous - a pathologically shy civil servant type (Nighy) whose life is his work and who doesn't appear to be capable of normal human interaction is forced by circumstances in a crowded cafe to share a table with a young woman. They get talking. There's just something... there. So they set up lunch. And then dinner. And there's a strange, shy, fey, awkward, endearing, weird, bizarre and yet utterly warm and tender and witty and believable connection between the two of them. And then he is due to go off to a bigwig G8 conference in Reykyavik, and he invites this girl, this stranger, along.
And there, in a nest of political vipers whose only thought is really to look out for themselves, she shames the world which had made promises to end poverty and disease and human suffering, the Millenium Promises into actually ACTING on those promises and not selfishly feathering their own nests on the transparent comforting pablum that "making our own economies stronger will help the world in the long run" - i.e. we'll get ours first, Jack.
And at a formal dinner our stranger at the feast, the young woman brought in from nowhere, snaps her fingers - snap -that's another child dead - snap - and another - snap - are you going to be the generation that does something about this, the great generation, or are you going to be the one that is looked back by the generation that does step forward to take care of the wold and be asked, "what were you thinking?"
There's no happy ending, of course. There can't be, not quite. But there is an ending that's bittersweet, and full of hope and fragile promise. The movie made me smile, sometimes laugh out loud, and then weep for the pity of it. And it ends, as the end-credits roll by, with a piece of music which then fades into a silence... or no, not quite silence. It fades into silence...SNAP...silence...SNAP...silenc
And a question. What have YOU done for your fellow man today?
Yes, I am a cynic. I am fully capable of believing, in my darkest moments, that our world is afflicted with a malignant virus for which there is no cure, and that the virus is us, humanity. I am fully aware that there are people who cannot be helped, and people who WILL not be helped, and that we are slowly annihilating this beautiful world by overrunning it by our sheer numbers, our demands, our sense of entitlement that the savannah that was once the home of wild horses and buffalo and the great African plains where the elephants once roamed in great numbers and the jungles of the Amazon with their ancient trees and colourful birds and prowling panthers are only there so that they can be made use of by man. There are times I read the things that human beings are capable of doing unto other human beings, or to helpless animals, and I weep for the fury and the pity of it.
And then I see a movie like this.
And some flicker of hope is still alight in me, somewhere in the deepest darkest corner. That perhaps some day we will all wake up and realise that none of us can go it alone.
Oh, I don't know. I just thought it needed to be said, that's all.