This is a very rare gem of a film. It is hard to remember seeing anything like it in recent memory. It is a film of beauty, subtlety, and restraint - and I loved it. It reminded me of classic films, and at times, even silent films. There are a lot of perfectly scored, beautiful shots that don’t include any dialogue, and yet speak volumes. One in particular was absolutely thrilling to me. It’s the kind of scene where, if you were to walk into the room and see it, you’d think nothing of it, but with the build up of the movie in it’s entirety, you feel the firecracker tension about to explode, and it’s absolutely divine.
Patricia Clarkson (who’s films are always worthwhile, if not incredible) gives a gorgeous, nuanced performance as Juliette, a Canadian woman in Cairo to visit her husband Mark, who works for the UN. They have planned that he will take a break from his duties to see the Pyramids with her, but when a refugee camp in Gaza becomes volatile, they have to postpone the sightseeing. Mark calls on his colleague Tareq (Alexander Siddig), a very handsome native of Egypt, to check on Juliette. A connection forms between the two, and the film slowly raises the will-they-or-won’t-they question. They somehow avoid the eye-rolling cliches here, and just show you the innocent blossoming of feelings between two people who will always have Cairo.
I have been interested in Egypt for years, but last May I visited the King Tut exhibit in Manhattan and became obsessed. I have spent hours reading about the country and doing research, so the setting of this great love story was a huge treat for me. It made me feel like I was there far more than any travel show I’ve seen has, and I think that’s a testament to the passion the filmmakers had for this project. There is a making of featurette on the DVD wherein writer/director Ruba Nadda says that if you don’t have an intense passion for the film you’re making, you have no business making a film, and I completely agree.