No one is likely to accuse Cairo Time of being misnamed. Throughout this slow-moving look at the experiences of a married woman (Patricia Clarkson) waiting for her U.N.-employed husband in Cairo, writer/director Ruba Nadda allows the city to seep into our senses in ways that sometimes make us feel as if time has stopped. Nadda effectively depicts the ways in which Clarkson’s Juliette makes the transition from culture shock to immersion in the city’s rhythms. Beautifully photographed by cinematographer Luc Montpellier, Cairo becomes a full-fledged character in the movie.
For 27 years, Robert Denerstein was the film critic at The Rocky Mountain News. Read more of Robert's reviews at Denerstein Unleashed.
Sad to say, the city proves more interesting than any of the movie’s human occupants. Clarkson does the most she can with a character who spends s lot of time alone. Given little to play off, she’s left to plumb the depths of her reactions to a series of low-key events, the most notable involving a tentative and largely inconclusive relationship with the owner of an Egyptian coffee shop (Alexander Siddig).
Nadda’s screenplay tends toward repetition, but the movie sometimes catches us in its sway, much the way an unexpected breeze can dispel the torments of stifling heat — if only briefly. As one who’s not likely to travel to Cairo any time soon, I welcomed this cinematic journey, even as I yearned for some dramatic sparks to fly.