Cairo Time (Canada; 88 min.)


directed by: Ruba Nadda
starring:Patricia Clarkson; Alexander Siddig; Amina Annabi; Tom McCamus
Cairo Time
 

Bruce says: "For sure, I’m a huge Patricia Clarkson fan.  I’m also known for little loyalty to those I hold in high esteem.  So, I am thrilled to report that Ms. Clarkson has never been better than she is in CAIRO TIME, a small and lovely film that is truly independent fare.  Her performance is understated in a role which could easily have been overblown.  A lot of credit for the restraint of this film goes to writer/director Ruba Nadda as well.  The elements for a saccharine tear jerker are all present; that Nadda is able to keep cheap emotion at bay is a huge achievement.

"Juliette (Patricia Clarkson) arrives in Cairo to spend some much needed time with her husband Mark (Tom McCamus) who has been stationed in nearby Gaza for a prolonged period.  In spite of having a professional life of her own and children who are now fully grown, she feels the need for intimacy.  To her surprise it is not Tom who greets her but his friend Tareq (Alexander Siddig), a handsome Egyptian who has been a friend of Mark’s for many years and who Juliette has heard much about.  Tareq explains that Mark is delayed in Gaza and should return to Cairo shortly.  He offers to show Juliette around his city.  Day after day Mark is further delayed; sometimes he calls but most often Juliette finds out through Tareq or some of the dreary petroleum wives she tries to avoid. 

"Seeing Cairo through Tareq’s eyes is seeing a city of great beauty even amid the throngs, congestion and decay.  On film Cairo has never looked so good, not even when filmed by native Egyptians.  Juliette is worldly but unaware of Muslim and Arab customs.  She goes to visit Tareq at the coffee house he owns.  At first she barely notices that she is the only woman present; Tareq explains that it is a place just for men but does not ask or tell her to leave.  Juliette has a million questions about the culture which, even when explained to her, seems out of conceptual reach.  When Juliette and Tareq run into Jasmeen and her daughter who is about to be married, Juliette is stunned by pangs of jealousy that take her by surprise.   Jasmeen, true to Juliette’s suspicions, is an old girlfriend of Tareq’s and once was the love of his life.  She is now single and Juliette cautiously asks Tareq why he doesn’t pursue her.  'She is Christian; I am Muslim.  It is forbidden,' is the simple reply.  Tareq, too, realizes he is falling in love with another woman who he cannot have.  Mark’s return to Cairo, once desired is now dreaded. 

"Patricia Clarkson accomplishment is so subtle, the gradual change in her character passes almost unnoticed.  Suddenly one realizes that Juliette looks more beautiful as the film progresses.  It is an inner beauty that is shining through.  Not many actresses are capable of creating such transformation.  CAIRO TIME is a love story that is honest, crystal clear and bittersweet.    4 cats 

"(CAIRO TIME screened at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival.)"

 
Michael says: "Superficially an adult romance between a married career woman visiting Cairo and a man who helps her navigate the city, CAIRO TIME also brushes such topics as culture differences, gender roles and politics. In many ways director Ruba Nedda has written a love letter to Cairo and an urban life seldom seen in western films. Patricia Clarkson plays Juliette, the wife of an American diplomat who is coming to Cairo to visit her husband. When she lands she is informed by Tareq, a former employee and dear friend of her husband’s, that he has been delayed and will call her at the hotel. Clarkson masterfully slides from thee excitement of arriving in a strange land to spend time with her husband to the disoriented wariness of a woman on her own in a Middle Eastern city. She is comforted by Tareq’s presence, but uncertain of their relationship as well. Her first attempts at exploring the city alone throw her into further dismay as the young men openly admire her and follow her wherever she goes.

"It is with great relief that she meets Tareq again, and he graciously takes her on tours of the city and surrounding countryside… all except the pyramids, which she has vowed to save for her husband. In her discussions with Tareq, she begin to understand the differences in their cultures, just as she slowly begins to become entranced by the exotic beauty of the locale. Clarkson is magnificent in a quiet, understated role that upon further examination might even be a woman used to her husband making decisions for her. While it is true that she has a career as a journalist for a women’s magazine, share makes it sound more like an issues journal than the lifestyle mag that it truly is. Clarkson responds slowly to Tareq’s gentle yet so-very male demeanor, but it is clear that she feels comforted by his presence, yet able to challenge and verbally spar with him as well.

"What Nedda does that is so remarkable is to allow long silences to permeate the film. There are long moments of Juliette and Tareq enjoying each other’s company with out speaking. Emotions is conveyed beautifully without words. It is a testament Nedda’s skillful direction that she so eloquently captures the ebb and flow of life in Cairo, showing us its everyday existence as it wraps a cocoon of longing around two solitary people. 4 ½ cats"
 
Chris says: "Sometimes, an actor’s presence alone convinces me to check out a film and Patricia Clarkson is the main reason to see this one. She plays Juliette, an American magazine editor who arrives in Egypt hoping to meet up with her husband, a Canadian diplomat. Unfortunately, he’s held up in the Gaza Strip due to an escalating conflict, leaving her to wonder the streets by herself, where she’s seen as an oddity by the country’s Muslim men (and women). Tareq, a local man and an old friend of her husband reaches out to her, and they find themselves attracted to each other. Although not a towering performance by any means, Clarkson is charming and provides a good surrogate for the audience. To her credit, director Ruba Nedda is not afraid to build momentum with subtlety and silence, and the growing affection between Juliette and Tareq exudes class and restraint—perhaps almost too much, as CAIRO TIME is a perfectly affable film that could benefit from a bit more tension. 3.5 cats"