Juliette (Patricia Clarkson), a women's magazine writer in her 50s, goes to Cairo for a three week vacation to meet up her husband, Mark (Tom McManus), a UN official working in Gaza,. While Tom is unavoidably delayed, he sends his friend Tareq (Alexander Ziddig), who had been his security officer for many years, to look after her in the exotic city, where she is a total stranger. Tareq is happy to help - even more so when he finds himself attracted to Juliette, and she in turn responds.
Review by Louise Keller:
A sublimely delicate film about culture, taboos, relationships and promises, Cairo Time offers us a tantalising taste of the past, the present and the future. Prolific Canadian- born writer director Ruba Nadda captures a multi-layered mood in her film about a middle aged married woman in Cairo, who finds her innocent exploration of an exotic city leads to issues of a more complex nature. Patricia Clarkson, whose career choices have predominantly been interesting roles in independent films, is ideal for the role of magazine editor Juliette Grant, who discovers as much about herself as she does her unfamiliar environment. Alexander Siddig creates mystique as the catalyst Tareq Khalifa, the man with unfathomable eyes who believes in fate. Middle Eastern colour intertwines with staggering locations, as matters of the heart leap into the unknown.
As Clarkson's Juliette pins her long hair into a stylish clip in the November heat on arrival in Cairo, we too, sense the discomfort. Not only of the heat, but of being a woman alone in a strange country. Her spacious hotel room overlooking the Nile, however, is a calm resting place as she waits for her husband to join her. There is an unspoken sense of the kind of life they lead: she is a career woman who has taken good care of their now grown-children, while he, as a United Nations envoy, is setting up a refugee camp in Gaza. Much of their lives are spent apart, although she appears happy with her lot. On the surface, anyway.
She breathes in the local ambience: the wails of Morning Prayer, the lively bustle of the Cairo market place, the dramatic white desert, the enticing water-pipe that tastes of apple and the tranquil sun sinking like a pale pink ball behind the majestic mounds. A local girl in the bus, teenage conscripts weaving carpets and the consequences of a divorced mother give texture to the reality of women who are clearly not able to make their own decisions. It is different for Juliette, who may not be comfortable under the glare of attention from young men following her in the street, but who is nonetheless accepted in Tareq's café for men only. The promised trip to the pyramids must wait.
It is Juliette's absent husband who has entrusted Tareq with her care; our journey is the development and recognition of the relationship that blossoms between them. Through Juliette we savour the taste of Cairo as she experiences her physical and emotional journey. I especially like Niall Byrne's middle-east themed music score, which greatly enhances our experience with its visceral changing tones. An ideal woman's film, it's a bit like a fascinating travelogue with a hint of Mills and Boon.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Approximating the story structure of Lost In Translation, Cairo Time puts a wife whose husband is absent, together with a fascinating bachelor in an exotic city. But the humour, the dry melancholy of the characters and the weakness of the screenplay deny us a repeat of the pleasures of Lost In Translation. Cairo Time is neither as touching nor as complex; it plays more like a quality Cairo travelogue with an element of forbidden romance.
The performances are wonderful, though, Patricia Clarkson being America's answer to Helen Mirren, delivering a superbly nuanced characterisation as Juliette, the loving wife whose patience - and loyalty - is tested by the constant delays in her husband's return. Alexander Ziddig is also outstanding as the endlessly polite, caring and thoughtful café owner who shows Juliette his Cairo. We have sunsets, Nile views and bustling streets, colourful characters in cafes sucking on shishas (water filtered pipes for smoking), a Cairo wedding with belly dancing and of course, the pyramids. In fact there is arguably too much of Cairo and not enough of the central characters discovering their attraction for each other - meaningful glances aside.
Neither anti-American sentiment nor political turbulence of any kind is allowed to seep into frame, as the Egyptian capital is given the advertising agency treatment - but at least there is a gentle editorial scolding for the absence of education for girls.
For all my carping, Ruba Nadda.s screenplay does in fact execute its one mission with finesse: we are not left squirming with embarrassment in our seats as the couple move tentatively closer to each other, thanks also to Nadda's direction. The way it pans out reminds me of those (now old fashioned) stories of the 40s when forbidden love was not only risque but unconscionable. And although the film is slight, it has a charm that will appeal to women who still nurture notions of tantalising romance.
Email this article
CAIRO TIME (M)
CAST: Patricia Clarkson, Alexander Siddig, Elena Anaya, Tom McCamus, Amina Annabi
PRODUCER: David Collins, Daniel Iron
DIRECTOR: Ruba Nadda
SCRIPT: Ruba Nadda
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Luc Montpellier
EDITOR: Tersa Hannigan
MUSIC: Niall Byrne
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tamara Conboy, Hamed Hemdan
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 19, 2010