This review originally appeared on IONCinema.
Tribeca 2010: Ruba Nadda's Cairo Time
by Melissa Silvestri
Cairo Time is an unusual love story, where the main love interests maintain a platonic romance. Written and directed by Ruba Nadda, inspired by her time visiting Cairo, Cairo Time, starring Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig, flips the expected notions of an affair and focuses it on a woman’s re-discovery of herself after many years of loneliness.
Juliette (Clarkson) is visiting her husband, a UN worker, abroad in Cairo, but his work keeps him too busy to spend time with her. So in his place, he sends his former colleague Tareq (Siddig) to show her around the city and be her guide to Egyptian culture. Their friendship slowly blossoms into sweet romance, but they both uphold a genteel restraint towards anything adulterous.
Clarkson and Siddig share a charming chemistry playing like-minded souls. They are both private and elegant people, who share a sense of chivalry and elegance that is truly a joy to watch. Clarkson has an extraordinary talent for finding the understated gestures of a touch or a look, saying more with a tilt of the chin or averted eyes than words ever could.
While Cairo Time at times runs the risk of being a movie about a white woman who discovers herself in an “ethnic” culture, it rarely feels as if Juliette’s story is the only focus, or that she is the center of everything. Siddig portrays Tareq as an old-fashioned gentleman in balance to Clarkson’s kind gracefulness as Juliette. The film is a love letter to the gorgeous architecture of the city of Cairo, and its diverse and interesting people who make the city what it is.