2010, PG, 90 min. Directed by Ruba Nadda. Starring Patricia Clarkson, Alexander Siddig, Elena Anaya, Tom McCamus, Amina Annabi.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Aug. 20, 2010
Juliette (Clarkson), a busy magazine editor, has taken a break in her schedule to travel to Cairo to visit her husband, Mark (McCamus), who is a U.N. official working in Gaza. When he is unavoidably delayed by sudden turmoil in Gaza, Mark dispatches his friend and former security officer Tareq (Siddig) to greet Juliette at the airport and get her settled into the hotel. While the problem keeps Mark detained for several more days, Tareq escorts Juliette around the city and becomes her personal guide. Their closeness grows wordlessly, and we watch their body language as the cultural barriers between them melt and their attraction to each other grows. There is no question that Juliette loves her husband, but Clarkson is also able to convey the toll that time and distance have taken on the pair. Her children are grown and out of school, her work keeps her plentifully occupied, and you get the sense that Juliette has come to Cairo to reignite their marital passion. Clarkson and Siddig are lovely to watch as their characters develop unspoken feelings in each other’s company. It’s as though the actors were performing a pas de deux in which every movement triggers a countermovement. Clarkson, in particular, is able to telegraph a great deal about Juliette’s situation in life through her observations, reactions, and instincts. Canadian writer/director Nabba is fortunate to have cast such an expressive actress, since the film often fares better in silence than in its dialogue. Frequently clunky in its language and obvious imagery, Cairo Time often finds its spell broken by such gaffes. Additionally, several sequences that involve experiences with other women in the area appear tangential and are never fully integrated into Juliette’s story. More than this being a story about one woman’s unexpected foray into love, however, the film is Nabba’s love poem to Cairo. Stunningly photographed (by Luc Montpellier), the heat and torpor are practically palpable, and the ever-present pyramids lend the film a timeless quality – similar to the effect of naming your protagonist after Shakespeare’s ultimate love icon. Cairo Time may be your ticket if you’re in the mood for love, but the excursion is a cut-rate journey. (Ends Sunday.)