Cairo Time
Director: Ruba Nadda

Love is a many-splendoured but also highly cerebral thing in Cairo Time, the winner of the Canadian feature prize at TIFF ’09.

Recalling Brief Encounter and Lost in Translation by displaying the mind as the most sensual of human instruments, the film searches for romance and meaning amidst the grandeur and challenges of modern Egypt.

Patricia Clarkson is Juliette, a Canadian magazine writer who travels to Cairo to see her husband Mark (Tom McCamus), a UN diplomat stationed in the Middle East.

The happily married couple have long talked about taking a trip together to the Pyramids.

But workaholic Mark is assisting at a Gaza refugee camp and can’t yet meet his spouse, so he asks his faithful friend Tareq (Alexander Siddig) to keep Juliette company.

Of such small seeds are mighty oaks of infidelity grown. But Montreal writer/director Ruba Nadda avoids the obvious, preferring to explore how geography, circumstance and fate can combine to test even the strongest of wills.

Is something happening between Juliette and Tareq? It’s hard to say, sometimes frustratingly so, because both characters are hard to read and the attraction isn’t obvious.

They play the “what if” game as they make their way through the streets of Cairo and surrounding deserts.

Clarkson and Siddig make the most of a script that delivers less than it promises.