Director David Yates is now a heavy Hollywood commodity (as the man responsible for bringing the previous Harry Potter movie as well as it's next two sequels to the screen), but over the past decade or so he's been quietly making a name for himself via the small screen in Britain. I recently wrote about his masterpiece, "State of Play", a few months back. The sheer intelligence and economic visual style of that series piqued my interest in this filmmaker. In 2005, he took a script from renowned writer Richard Curtis and directed a small made for television film called "The Girl In the Cafe". A May-December romance with intensely political leanings, this 93 minute movie is just as devastating as his previous 6 hour mini-series and cemented in my mind the talent that lies within Yates.
Lawrence (Bill Nighy) is an isolated loner who works for the Chancellor of England as a financial advisor. During a quick coffee break in a cafe across the street from his office, he meets pretty (yet equally isolated) Gina (Kelly MacDonald) and they strike up a conversation since her booth is the only empty seat in the place. Coffee turns into lunch two weeks later and the dinner the next night. Lawrence eventually asks Gina to accompany him to the G8 summit in Iceland later that month and she obliges him. A relationship builds slowly and quietly between the two of them, but does Gina have ulterior motives?
Nighy and MacDonald (who worked so well off each other in "State Of Play") imbue their characters with grace and sensitivity. From the opening scenes, Nighy does a remarkable job of drawing out the odd tendencies in his personality. Here is a man so accepting of his solitude that we see him side stepping people in the hallway so they can walk by him as if he isn't there. Another scene punctuates his invisibility by the way he sits in his seat doodling when his peers enter the conference room and sit around him... barely noticing him as they pass papers in front of him. MacDonald, on the other hand, presents herself as a fragile beauty, escaping from something (what? we don't know until the very end) and idling her time away in this coffee shop. The idea of her obliging Lawrence her company doesn't feel that far off. And while, sometimes, the May-December romance can seem forced or inaccessible, Nighy and MacDonald hit every note perfectly as they etch out the understated emotions and motives of its complicated love story. Like "Before Sunset" or "Lost In Translation", this is a simple film that revels in two people talking, growing close to one another, and learning to accept someone when the surroundings are far removed from the comforts of home. Seek this one out.