There’s a writing exercise I like to do where I go to a mall, a train station, a coffee shop—anywhere there’s people—and make up stories for the folks I see there. Because everyone has a story, some wear their stories so you can read them just by the way they carry themselves, some it’s more fun to put a story on them. Either way, everyone has a story to tell … and everyone is an interesting story. Stories that connect with one another. That’s the premise of the movie Café.

A group of regulars frequent the local West Philly Grounds coffee shop in Philadelphia who we get to know by eavesdropping on their conversations. Ordinary folks: the baristas who work the coffee bar (Jennifer Love Hewitt, The Ghost Whisperer), the ever present writer who is working on his screenplay or “Great American Novel”, the computer geek, the couple engaging in the getting to know you dance, and the neighborhood troublemaker (Jamie Kennedy). A tragedy occurs which makes them realize just how connected they all are.

The movie has a quirky charm as it ambles along, but its power is in its writing. The conversations are so rich and real with such a rhythm to them that one can get fully absorbed in them. The characters are richly drawn and you find yourself rooting for each of them, heroes in their own stories, to triumph.

“I would create a virtual world, filled with beauty and opportunity. And everything and everyone in that world would ultimately be one. But they just didn’t know it.” –Ellie

While the coffeeshop may seem to be the nexus that connects the stories, the true nexus is Elly, a little girl only a couple of people notice. Elly—Elohim being the first name of God found in the Bible meaning “Creator, Mighty and Strong” (Genesis 17:7)—is the portrait of how God works in our lives. She’s like a computer programmer who built free will into the software and interacts with it, but without overly intruding or forcing herself onto the system, “talking back to whoever chooses to tune her in.” Knowing us intimately, having a personal relationship with us, and working through us to affect Her will. Always available and present, and at work in every moment in every part of reality, she finds the ordinary as intriguing as the extraordinary.

“I live in a state of endless possibility and limitless dimension.” –Elly

Café reminds us of several things. It’s easy to forget that God is available and accessible in all circumstances of life, even the mundane activities of daily living. Simply assuming that God is present and then living accordingly can greatly impact one’s life. We become formed by this simple yet profound discipline as we learn to appreciate every encounter, every circumstance, as an opportunity to know God. Life is about seeing God at work in the ordinary. Believing that this is a magic infused world, filled with wonder and mystery; that our every action has meaning and eternal consequence. This world is about finding your purpose and joining in the mission, using your gifts, to be a blessing to one another.

We’re reminded that we need to be in-the-moment relationship builders. Constantly making connections and being a part of people’s lives. Conversations need to be the end goal, listening and learning about people for their own sake. It becomes about building relationships and seeing where they go. That through relationships with one another, we create a strong and vital bond to weather the pain and tragedies of life, or, as Ellie points out, “there’s no more brilliant light than that which follows complete darkness.”

“When you can go either way, but you choose to do the right thing, there’s nothing more gratifying.” –Elly

Marc Erlbaum who is local to the area wrote the screenplay at West Philly’s Green Line Cafe (which is used for external shots). Writers, “noticing things that other people ignore,” are professional observers, trying to make life meaningful. Or at least poetic. If Donnie Darko had come from a spiritual bent rather than a science fiction one, it would have been Café. Or this is what the book The Shack might look like if it were made into a movie. Either way, it’s one of those movies where you get so wrapped up in it, you just hope it ends well so the experience can be fully rewarded. And while not having a perfect ending, Café is small (intimate the way independent movies can feel), filled with mystery, whimsy, and magic.