The Girl In the Cafe – A Movie Review (Some Spoilers)

A few months ago I had the opportunity to watch a film of the type I invariably enjoy. I recommend it to you all as well, my gentle readers. Girl in the Cafe is a production of HBO. It stars Bill Nighy, who portrays Lawrence, a minister of finance in the British Government, and Kelly Macdonald, who plays the part of a girl he meets one day in a cafe. Her name is Gina. Both actors are superb in their roles, and as the film progresses, Gina and Lawrence begin a romantic relationship, although he is certainly old enough to be her father.

Perhaps the dynamics of their May/December relationship and Lawrence’s obvious infatuation with Gina cause him to lose perspective and do things he would never do under more ordinary circumstances (and what man out there does not know of what I write). In Lawrence’s case this means inviting his new love interest to accompany him to the annual G-8 summit. Of particular concern for many at this summit is the implementation of the Millennium Goals, which had been previously adopted by the nations. It soon becomes clear that this is a very far-fetched idea. There is no way that even a tenth of the proposals have any chance of being carried out, and this means that thousands of children will die each die in the under-developed world. Gina actually hears the statistic that 30,000 children die each day from extreme poverty and preventable disease.

Unlike many of those privy to inner workings of power and politics, Gina is not a jaded person. This statistic shocks her, and she cannot believe that it does not similarly shock everyone else. She begins to ask questions, too many questions, and becomes a source of embarrassment for the British government. Even Lawrence, as taken with her as he is, knows that she has gone too far. This all comes to a climax when she confronts the Prime Minister and pleads with him to be a person of integrity and deep compassion.

Rebecca Snavely in her own blog gives a nice summary of this scene: “In her cry for help, she reminds the power players of the world that every parent must feel for their child what we all feel for our children. That though we do not know these people personally, we all understand the pain and suffering that comes from the inability to stop the disease that takes your child’s life.”

As she finishes her plea Gina snaps her fingers. Then she snaps them again three seconds later. Gina tells the gathered leaders and us that this means another child has died. In a kind of a “reverse-bell-tinkling-an-angel-gets-its wings scene from It’s a Wonderful Life, we are told that for every snap of her finger, another child has died.

Later, as the movie ends and the credits begin, the music eventually fades and we are left with just the sound of snapping fingers, one snap every three seconds, one after another after another.

I quoted Rebecca Snavely earlier, because I found her response to the film very moving.

I feel sick to my stomach, anger, unable to sit still, unable to watch passively any longer. The overwhelming number of 30,000 children dying every day is easier to disregard than the snap of a finger every few seconds. The snap of a finger, a gesture of ease and disregard. I know this feeling and passion will fade, but I must make permanent changes in my own daily life to help. What can I do?

Rebecca then closes her post with this quote from Nelson Mandela. After it, nothing more needs to be said. There remains only the doing if we have the courage of our emotions and convictions.

“Recognize that the world is hungry for action, not words. Act with courage and vision.

I give the film 9 out of 10 stars.

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