One of the world’s most successful romantic-comedy scribes has given his latest movie a new twist: a call to end poverty.
“The Girl in the Cafe,” written by “Love Actually” filmmaker Richard Curtis, premieres on HBO Saturday, June 25 at 8 p.m. ET. The film stars Bill Nighy as a British politician who falls for a girl (Kelly Macdonald) in a cafe and invites her to accompany him to the G8 Summit, where world leaders meet to determine global priorities.
Press notes for the film call it “both a romantic character drama with comedic elements, and a powerful political wake-up call.”
Nighy plays Lawrence, an extremely shy bureaucrat for the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer. His work-consumed world is shaken when he meets Gina, an enigmatic woman who touches his heart and potentially changes the world when she accompanies him to the summit.
Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore wrote that “this lovely film can hold its own against any love story as it depicts a mismatched couple struggling to connect.”
The movie “has a timeless flavor engagingly at odds with the urgency of its mission,” he also wrote.
The G8 Summit meets for real July 6-8 in Scotland. The G8, which stands for “Group of Eight” countries, is focusing this year on Africa, the world’s poorest continent. Aid organizations around the world have mobilized to persuade summit leaders to take deliberate and immediate steps to “make poverty history,” as one campaign calls it.
The countries comprising the G8 are the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada.
Screenwriter Richard Curtis’ romantic comedies have stamped an entire generation. “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Notting Hill” and “Love Actually” are a few to flow from his pen.
Curtis said in an interview with HBO online that he normally works for charity about six months of every two years. Some time ago, he realized the G8 Summit would be held in Scotland and decided to do “some consciousness-raising.”
He said “CafÃ©” was originally meant as a theatrical release, but he rethought that approach as he considered the film more as an agent for social change.
“The way to get to lots of people quickly and inject something into the bloodstream is to do it on the television,” said Curtis.
“The movie’s about the two things I’m most passionate about, which is love—otherwise, I wouldn’t have so obsessively written all these romantic movies,” said Curtis, “and sort of poverty-stricken injustice, because I’ve run a charity for twenty years, and it’s a large bee in my bonnet.”
After Curtis saw the “Live Aid” concert on television about 20 years ago, he decided to become more involved in activism. After a trip to Africa, he banded together with some of his comedy friends for relief work. They created “Red Nose Days,” a bi-annual telethon devoted to raising funds for Africa.
Ten telethons and hundreds of millions of dollars later, Curtis decided to write this film “to just see whether or not one could have an effect on these men at the G8.”
Curtis wants viewers to identify with the “ordinary” girl in the film and realize they can make a difference.
“And just at this particular moment, there is something that people can do,” Curtis told HBO online. “You go on our website at ONE.org and send a message to politicians in America that this is a subject of concern.”
Nighy, perhaps best known to American audiences for playing the aging rocker in “Love Actually,” told HBO he was aware of the poverty issue “from the moment your grandmother says you better finish what’s on your plate because there are millions of children starving all over the world. But I had the same relationship with it that I see in most of the people around me, which is that somehow we get through the day with that kind of information, and we somehow arrange to do absolutely nothing about it.”
“I have somehow managed throughout my whole life to do very, very little to help,” Nighy continued. “I knew that Africa was the emergency, but I didn’t know quite how urgent the situation was. I didn’t know that thirty thousand children die every day. I didn’t know that every three seconds a child who absolutely shouldn’t die, dies. I didn’t know that.”
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
The movie’s official Web site is here.