For decades filmmakers have paid tribute to cities like Paris, London, New York and Rome. They’ve shown the beauty and the desire of these cities: the skylines, the food, the local sights, the people. In Cairo Time, filmmaker Ruba Nadda brings the attention to the Egyptian capital, prior to the recent revolution. Nadda shows off the city and its surrounding area with beautiful, picturesque views of landscapes, people working and the hustle of daily life. It’s a warts and all observation that brings to light the difficulties that women experience in a “modern” society.
When Juliette (Patricia Clarkson) arrives in Cairo, she’s expecting to spend some time with her husband, a UN employee. But when she finds he’s been delayed by work in Gaza, his former coworker Tareq (Alexander Siddig) steps in to pick her up from the airport and transport her to her hotel. Juliette spends several days trying to find her way on her on in Cairo but she has difficulty fitting in despite lunches and activities with other UN spouses. Lonely and culturally isolated, she calls on Tareq and spends some time seeing the sights with him. As it becomes clear that Juliette’s husband won’t be returning anytime soon, it becomes easier for her to enjoy Tareq’s company and it’s clear that the feeling is mutual.
While Cairo Time is considered a romance movie, it’s not of the typical sort. It’s complicated and more realistic than the stories that some films pursue. Cairo Time is charming and subtle, a fascinating exploration of a culture still considered in some parts of the West as exotic, and it’s a story worth telling.