CAIRO TIME (Dir. Ruba Nadda, 2010)
Patricia Clarkson is a very busy actress these days.
It’s the quiet and subtle story of a woman on vacation alone in the city of Cairo, Egypt since her husband’s work as a UN official keeps him away.
She promises him from the phone in her hotel room that she will “save the Pyramids” – that is wait to visit the landmark until he arrives.
A colleague of Clarkson’s husband – a suave English speaking Egyptian (Alexander Siddig) offers to show her around the city and there is a definite attraction between the couple.
Their repartee is both witty and unsettling as Clarkson seems very fragile and an unspoken allusion to the true state of her marriage haunts the air around them.
There’s not a lot of polished photography here, but with such locations that is forgiven. Clarkson, though unable to swim and afraid of the water, takes a boat ride on the Nile with Siddig and the beauty of the setting mixed with the thoughtful tone is a good example of the overall feel of this film.
Clarkson delivers a wonderfully natural performance that resonates throughout the film. Siddig (best known for playing Julian Bashir on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) seems to be enjoying himself as this charismatic character.
The spare cast also includes Amina Annabi as a former lover of Siddig's many years estranged.
There is flirtation between Clarkson and Siddig, but this is not a film about infidelity. It’s about the intensity of shared time. When Clarkson visits the Pyramids with Siddig which she later doesn’t tell her husband, the moment is intended to be as arousing as if they had fallen into bed together.
It’s reminiscent of the ending of last year’s AN EDUCATION in which the young protagonist (Cary Mulligan) didn’t tell a new date that she had been to Paris before. Her previous time in the city of love was omitted for personal, possibly empowering, reasons.
Some might consider that still a form of cheating, but since we only see a silently suffering Clarkson and we learn nothing about Clarkson and her husband’s (who only briefly appears at the end played by Tom McCamus) background except their professions - I believe that it’s understandable that she needed some private empowerment of her own.