Last night’s globalisation rom-com may be, as CNN put it ‘the best romantic comedy set at a G-8 summit you’re ever likely to see.’ But it was also the best thing Richard Curtis has written in a long while, bringing together the Comic Relief co-founder’s long standing commitment in irradicating poverty with his line in humourous tales of awkward-but-likeable British romatic misfits.
Whilst the plot itself may have merely been a container for a series of devastating statistics about African poverty, Bill Nighy and Kelly MacDonald gave outstanding performances as a lonely and overworked civil servant and a shy, quiet girl he shares a table with in a Whitehall cafe. David Yates (who directed both leads in the fantastic State of Play) creates plenty of Lost in Translation style hotel awkwardness, and it’s beautifully shot, with the stunning Icelandic scenery emphasising the loneliness of the leads.
In this resolutely British TV movie (broadcast on both sides of the Atlantic) Curtis has restrained his usual tendency towards the syrupy, not only allowing his trademark dialogue to sparkle, but also paring down the politics to a simple question of priorities. Whilst it can’t resist preaching, the film doesn’t provide easy answers – it puts the difficult questions without the usual cliches, recognising the good intentions of our politicians and the damage caused by simplistic anti-globalisation rhetoric.
Quietly, and insistently, the girl in the cafe reminds us, and the politicians, that these issues are too important to compromise and refuses to allow us to ignore the opportunity with which we are being presented.