An oasis in the desert!
Set in the sweltering, chaotic and ancient Egyptian metropolis,
writer/director Ruba Nadda’s gentle romantic drama drifts slowly along
without ever veering into boredom. Juliette (Patricia Clarkson, always
subtly effervescent) is a middle-aged mother whose children are now
grown up and whose husband is extra-busy working at a UN camp in
to meet her for a long-overdue holiday together in Cairo, he continually
fails to show up due to work priorities. Juliette is left alone in an
old-time luxury hotel (which evokes the feel of Lost in Translation)
in the care of local resident and a retired former colleague of her
husband, Tareq (a broodingly mysterious Alexander Siddig). Ostensibly
just a tour guide, soon their relationship becomes more personal. Could
it be love?
are many things to like about Cairo Time. One is the gorgeous
photography which is both panoramic and minute. It shows the complex
beauty of the city but does not shy away from its less cosmetic
features. We are also treated to a feast of tourism imagery, from spice
markets to pyramids, to men-only cafés. Another attractive aspect was
the sometimes-uncomfortable view of a Western woman in a Muslim society.
Needless to say, Clarkson is amazing as always, not letting a single
scene slip through her talent.
film is enchanting because of its subtlety and slow pace. Things are
hinted at and teased, even left to plateau. It’s story-telling which
hasn’t spewed from a machine and which relies only on words and actions,
not explosions and special effects. The insights into local customs and
etiquette, including a wedding scene and also the “petroleum wives” are
as intriguing as they are eye-opening.
has a consummate grip on human relationships and their depiction. There
is also plenty of honest, wry humour about the East-West divide and the
convoluted and interminable “Middle East Peace Process”, including a
very tense scene when Juliette’s bus is held up by the authorities.
enjoyed myself a lot, though I must cite one irritating error too often
seen in the movies: if they insist on showing or using a chessboard, why
can’t they have the decency to set up the board correctly? A good rule
is “white on right”.