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Canada/Ireland/Egypt 2010
Directed by
Ruba Nadda
90 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Emma Flanagan
3.5 stars

Cairo Time

Synopsis: 50-something North American women’s magazine editor, Juliette (Patricia Clarkson,  plans to meet her husband, Mark (Tom McCamus) in Cairo to explore the pyramids, something they have long  promised each other they would do. When he is delayed by his UN job, he arranges for a former work colleague Tareq (Alexander Siddig) to take Juliette from the airport to the hotel. Mark is held up and can’t say for how long, so she contacts Tareq and asks him to show her the city.

Cairo is hot, stifling, and a million miles from her regular work and home environment. The crowds, smells and general chaos are foreign to her, as are the unwanted attentions of the local male populace.  Patricia Clarkson is perfectly cast as Juliette, the thoughtful woman, an empty-nester neglected by her husband, who suddenly finds herself on her own and wondering how to fill in the time she normally would dedicate to work. A middle-aged crisis this is not, but Juliette certainly finds herself in a surprising spot which she hadn’t reckoned on.

Juliette struggles to adjust to her new surroundings. She attends a cocktail party, but is quickly bored with the small talk of the ‘petroleum wives,’ finding only one younger woman Kathryn (Elena Alaya) to whom she can relate.  On a day trip, Kathryn tells of her former long-term Egyptian lover, but says she had to end it, because “he got too possessive, they always do”, thus foretelling the fate that might become Juliette’s, should she decide to follow the same path.

It is only when Juliette contacts Tareq that she finally begins to see Cairo as a local might see it and to love it for what it is. But her new insight into this place also brings with it unanticipated feelings for her new-found companion.

Cairo Time is beautifully shot in a classic style. It shows you a Cairo that you would want to visit. I drank in greedily the sights and sounds of the markets, music and conversations at cafés. I could almost smell the food and the perfumes of the exotic gardens.  I wanted to get on that boat and cruise on the Nile. And I wouldn’t complain about making a trip with thorough gentleman, Tareq, either.

It’s great to see a film about a woman in the publishing industry who doesn’t live on 200 calories and 2 litres of black coffee a day. I was reminded of another recent performance about a publishing character, that of Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada (2006). Neither actress makes loud noises or even moves very much but the intelligence of both these characters – and the actresses – shines through the careful enunciation of words, small gestures and immaculate timing of responses.

Cairo Time is subtle film, full of delightful revelations about a city that is full of contradictions, especially where the status of women is concerned. It shows how a place can be patriarchal and modern at the same time, yet always heady with passion and joie de vivre.





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