Written by Diane Tillis
Vogue magazine editor Juliette (Patricia Clarkson) travels to Cairo to attend a UN function where she will meet up with her UN-official husband Mark (Tom McCamus). Mark is unavoidably delayed in Gaza, but sends a trusted friend and former UN official Tareq (Alexander Siddig) to keep Juliette company. Tareq and Juliette have known of each other for years, but this is the first time they have met face to face. They travel together exploring the wonders of the city, the daily life of native Egyptians, and the culture of Cairo. Their days are filled with more wonder than Juliette has experienced in years. Juliette is a woman with a sensitive, soft, and nurturing nature who blossoms like a desert rose while in Cairo. Tareq is a mysterious, gentle, but experienced man who learns how to love again. Their friendship deepens into an undeniable attraction of love and trust. However, their flourishing love will end when Mark finally arrives in Cairo. They had only days together, but Tareq and Juliette will remember those days forever.
Cairo Time it is a feast for the romantic soul in all of us. Written like the romance stories of Jane Austen, love is expressed through body language and unguarded smiles. Tareq and Juliette discover the cultural differences between them, but manage to find a connection across them. Clarkson and Siddig play their roles exquisitely as lovers who find a sense of peace and wonder in another human being. From the beginning, Clarkson has proved herself as one of the most gifted actresses in the world. The film unveils like a romantic Victorian poem that would make anyone believe in the power of love.
The city of Cairo also plays a major role in the film. As described, Tareq and Juliette only have days together. In the film those days feel like a lifetime. Time is noted in the film when characters ask for the time from another character. However, time has no meaning in Cairo. The city moves to its own rhythm. The realities, both the good and the bad, of Cairo are brought to the forefront of the film by Juliette’s curiosity. Beautiful scenes of the White Desert, the great pyramids, and the Nile create a sense of awe of the history of the city.
The video aspect ratio is 2.35:1. The video quality is beautiful. The dark colors of Tareq’s clothing are sharp against the soft pastels of Juliette’s dresses. This color composite extends to the scenery and set designs. The softness of the love story is expressed through the soft lighting of the sets.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 with an English and Spanish language track plus subtitles. There is some Arabic spoken throughout the dialogue. Sometimes the uncontrolled sets that take place on the busy streets or in marketplaces will have loud background sounds that distort the dialog. After listening to the director’s commentary about this problem, I can understand why the film does not have a clean dialog. For the majority of the film there were no other problems that would undermine the audio quality.
The director commentary is with director Ruba Nadda and cinematographer Luc Montpellier. They discuss the difficulty of filming each scene in Cairo, the music compositions, and the chemistry between the actors. As a viewer, you experience how time flowed slower in Cairo opposed to over here in the states. Thus one of the most interesting things they discuss is the sense of time, how time flows in Cairo.
The only difference between the theatrical ending and the alternative ending was the location.
Ruba Nadda discusses her inspiration for Cairo Time, how she found her lead actors, and how she maintained the authenticity of the film in the making-of featurette.
The Toronto Film Festival Q&A is a twenty-five minute segment with Ruba Nadda, Patricia Clarkson, and Alexander Siddig. They discuss everything from the experience shooting in Cairo, Ruba’s inspiration, and the film’s characteristics in front of a live audience.
On the DVD, director Ruba Nadda has included a collection of short films she wrote and directed.
I loved this film. It is reminiscent of old romance stories of characters who express their love without words. If you find Jane Austen novels to be page turners, you will love this film, because they share many similar qualities. Some viewers might comment that pace of the film is slow; well, that is true. This slowness is not something that should be considered a negative aspect. As I described, Cairo time moves to its own rhythm. This slowness is in fact a crucial aspect of the film. Cairo Time would a wonderful gift for the hopeless romantic in all of us. I hope you love the experience, beauty, and rhythm of Cairo Time as much as I did. One plane ticket to Cairo, please!