Starring Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig. Rated G. Opens Friday, October 16, at the Cinemark Tinseltown and the Fifth Avenue Cinemas
Cairo Time isn’t a complete waste of you know what, but it is certainly a much simpler and more amateurish tale than you’d expect from Montreal-born writer-director Ruba Nadda, who mined much richer veins of middle-aged love in 2005’s Sabah.
Watch the trailer for Cairo Time.
That feature, already her third this decade, starred Arsinée Khanjian as a Toronto woman who hides a new Canadian boyfriend from her conservative Syrian family even as the heart’s clock is ticking noisily away. Here, the quietly yearning heroine, played by an uncharacteristically restrained Patricia Clarkson, already has grown children and works as an editor at a chic women’s magazine. Juliette, as she’s called, has come to Cairo to catch up with her elusive husband, a UN official embroiled in Middle Eastern affairs that keep him away this time, as well.
Juliette isn’t exactly looking for her Romeo, but she gets one in Tareq (Sudan-born Alexander Siddig, best known as the good doctor on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). A former associate of the absent husband, this handsome fellow now runs a coffeehouse where men smoke, play chess, and pop their eyes out at a visit from a red-haired southern belle like our adrift journalist.
The locations are wonderful, of course, and the film raises some interesting, if obvious, questions about class and gender in modern Arabic societies. But it is far from clear how these characters feel about such things, and even harder to discern how we are supposed to view other people—like the beautiful Spaniard (Sex and Lucia’s Elena Anaya)—who drift through the story once or twice and never return.
If the film had a lighter touch, this random quality wouldn’t matter so much, but Nadda loads the soundtrack with lushly romantic piano music, as if our bosoms are supposed to be heaving with every breath these tentative lovers take. First, we’d have to care.