The Girl In The Cafe (2005)

Bill Nighy as Lawrence in the Girl in the Cafe

Awards and nominations

Bill Nighy was nominated for a Golden Globe for “Best Actor In a Mini-Series Or a Movie For TV” for his fantastic performance in the Girl In the Cafe.


Bill Nighy about Lawrence and the movie:

Lawrence is isolated by his chronic self-consciousness,” Nighy says of his character when we first meet him. “One would suspect that he has had little or no experience within the romantic arena. His life is formed around his work, and he has narrowed it down to that one thing. He is sort of disabled by his shyness.

“He also is a believer. He isn’t just using his job to duck the rest of life; he also believes that the work he is involved in is crucial and important.”

He is incapacitated by the yearning, the longing, and the fundamental desire that he feels, and I don’t think it even gets as far as the promise or the hope of any sexual contact. I think it’s just the fact that he gets to breathe the same air is intensely glamorous for him. And should she ever touch his face, he might cry. It’s just out of his range of experience and therefore powerful in a way that regular folk probably can’t grasp unless they watch the movie..

Obviously there is a message, and do you feel any kind of responsibility or any pressure because of that? I laugh because yes I do, I do feel a unique responsibility, and a unique degree of pressure, because you want very passionately to get it right. I didn’t sleep for the first week. But then I often don’t sleep for the first week. But in this case I suppose it was twice as bad.

But the expectation therefore is quite high, and when the expectation is high the pressure is great. But mostly, the pressure is not to mess it up because you want it to deliver in a way that you don’t normally want movies to deliver, you want this one to deliver one thousand percent.

Richard Curtis about Bill Nighy

Curtis categorises his own house-style as “heightened truthfulness”: a performance that seems natural, but is underpinned by precision comic timing. “Bill is a perfect example of this in Love Actually,” he says. “One hundred per cent true and then 100 per cent funny when necessary. And in Girl in the Café he really showed his full range. Funny, immensely moving and immensely serious. But I also like the fact that his performances are slightly larger than life – while not appearing to be so. He has a certain magnificence.”

The Critics

The film is graced by two truthful and magical central performances from Bill Nighy and Kelly Macdonald, and, thanks to Curtis’s dialogue, it is just as funny as Love Actually or Four Weddings and a Funeral.


The wildly underrated Bill Nighy stars as Lawrence, a somewhat meek, reclusive civil servant, who works for the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Ken Stott) and leads a relatively dull, uneventful life.

The fact that Curtis more or less narratively sabotages his May-December pair is maddening as Nighy and Macdonald generate an offbeat chemistry that is oddly engaging.
The Girl in the Cafe is a film that deserves wider recognition that it received but not necessarily for the message it trumpets (although the message certainly merits mention) – rather, it’s a two-character piece that studies the quiet spaces between lonely people and the warmth generated when chance opens them up.

Bill Nighy plays Lawrence, bringing with him a sad sack sensibility that draws us closer to him the first second he appears on screen. We know more about this man through Nighy’s body language than we do from his dialogue (watch for the great sequence in which Lawrence anxiously debates whether or not to leave his tie on for his lunch date with Gena). With just one look, we can see Lawrence’s heart break, or be reborn.

Nighy, Macdonald, and Curtis have never been better than in their work here. Yates, meanwhile, is a director with whom I am not familiar (all I know is that he’s been hired to direct the fifth “Harry Potter” movie), so I will merely state that he does a masterful job presenting the material, delivering two remarkable performances, controlling the pace of the work with spot-on precision, using the Icelandic backdrop as an opportunity for some stunning visuals. The four of them make it impossible to turn away from the central characters, whatever they do. As such, “The Girl In the Café” is a modest jewel of a film, captivating in its romance, its drama, its comedy, its commentary.


Bill Nighy, reprising the Hugh Grant hapless male role, only with more “umms” and less hair, was engaging as a shy British Treasury official. Kelly Macdonald was equally compelling as a quiet, mysterious beauty — the eponymous girl in the café. As always with Curtis, the detail and dialogue were exquisite. Macdonald’s Gina is economical with words and rather sad, implying a past fraught with emotional hardship; Nighy’s Lawrence is ostensibly a success, but in reality a disappointment to himself and his ideals. The prospect of romance between the two had all the key ingredients of a classic rom-com: a mismatched couple who find love and redemption in each other’s flaws.

Bonus Info / The songs in the Girl In The Cafe

2 songs from the soundtrack (which isn’t really available on cd – unfortunately) of the Girl of the Cafe that made an everlasting impression:

Sigur Ros – Starálfur (islandic for Staring Elf) from the album ágætis byrjun (“an alright start”). (Download Starálfur free and legal from Sigur Ros’ website.

Damien Rice – Cold Water from his album O


Trailer and pictures of The Girl In The Cafe

HBO : The Girl in the Cafe (official site)

Interview with Bill Nighy about The Girl In The Cafe

IMDB : The Girl in the Cafe

On top of everything else, I’m Shy

How Bill put the groove in G8

Bill Nighy on poverty and passion

CNN : The Civil cervant and the pretty girl : Nighy plays shy, Fights Hunger



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