Eternal passion

Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig:Passion, friendship and honour in the searing desert heatHave you seen Cairo Time, the small independent film starring Patricia Clarkson? It is the story of Juliette, a Canadian magazine editor who journeys to Cairo to meet her husband. He’s a United Nations adviser, who is endlessly delayed by a crisis in Gaza. His friend, the dashing Tarreq, played by Alexander Siddig meets her at the airport.

The very blond Clarkson cannot move about Cairo without being harassed. She is forced to seek out the tall, mysterious, and attractive Tarreq as her guide.
Patricia Clarkson glows against the white heat of the desert. Her clothes, in jewel-like colours, make her look frail, beautiful, and desirable, even when she’s next to younger women. Stuck in Cairo for a week without her husband, she wants to “explore”, and with Tarreq at her side, she does. They roam through the scenic marketplace and cruise up the Nile. They attend the wedding of the daughter of the attractive widow who was Tarreq’s fist love.
Juliette discovers the strange differences that separate men and women in Arabic society. But, she is a quiet foreigner, who listens, looks, and occasionally asks a question or two. She is neither brassy nor opinionated.
The movie is tense and flirtatious, but restrained. A lot happens in a short time. Juillette is astounded that young men would follow and bother a woman over forty. There is nothing attractive about their crude attentions, but as her relationship grows closer to Tarreq, it is clear there is an attraction between them. She also learns he has never married because religious differences when he was younger kept him from the woman he loved.
The movie is visually arresting, with fabulous costumes and sumptuous photography. It is mesmerizing to watch two fine actors play out their scenes. It was even more delicious to watch two attractive people act with honour.
The Juliette character has been married many years and loves her husband. She brought up children with him. She is a busy woman in North America. How delicious it must have been to fall in love with Cairo. And darlings, that sometimes happens in a romantic foreign place — you fall in love with the place – and that can be confusing.
When people talk about this movie, they forget Juliette got on a bus and tried to go to see her husband in Gaza. She was turned back by the officials, but she did try. She was looking for nothing in Cairo – but her husband. He was the man she wanted to share her romantic adventure with.
I think the marvelous thing about this film is the adult way Juliette and Tarreq knew “not to go there” with each other. How delightful life would be if more people could behave well. Tarreq respected his relationship with Juliette and also respected her as a married woman. Juliette was swept up in her Cairo adventure and her romantic new friend, yet she managed to enjoy herself  without forgetting her husband and family. It was delicious and satisfying to see Juillette and her ruggedly handsome husband drive off in a cab to see the pyramids, laughing and talking as old marrieds do. I hoped that Tarreq would call his widowed long-lost lady love and take a chance in finding his bliss, too.
It amused me that on a Facebook discussion of the movie, one man stated that seeing the pyramids with Tarraq was her infidelity, as she had agreed to see them with her husband. I can only wonder if that man has ever been married, if that is his idea of infidelity after 20 years of marriage.
He reminded me of a young and annoying expat couple I met in Russia. They knew it all. They went on and about how they never watched TV at night, they dined and bathed by candlelight, and called each other dear. They were truly nauseating. They were divorced before their next posting.
Marriage can be tricky business. See Cairo Time for a love story as eternal as the pyramids, and a passion that is as hot and eternal as the desert.