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Originally published Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 3:04 PM

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Movie review

'Cairo Time': Patricia Clarkson — and the city — shine

In "Cairo Time," the ever-wonderful Patricia Clarkson lights up Ruba Nadda's stately drama like the moon on a summer night.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 3 stars

'Cairo Time,' with Patricia Clarkson, Alexander Siddig, Tom McCamus. Written and directed by Ruba Nadda. 89 minutes. Rated PG for mild thematic elements and smoking. Seven Gables.

Juliette (Patricia Clarkson) is alone in Cairo, waiting for her diplomat husband, Mark, to join her, lost in that night-lit disorientation that jet lag brings. By day, she takes walks, trying to catch up with the local time yet still feeling vague and fuzzy, like she's not quite in focus. A handsome local, her husband's friend Tareq (Alexander Siddig, with a George Clooney- esque beard), befriends this lonely traveler and they spend quiet days together, keeping their manners formal.

The ever-wonderful Clarkson lights up Ruba Nadda's stately drama "Cairo Time" like the moon on a summer night, making every moment luminous with quiet, resigned longing. Gradually, Juliette begins to fall for Tareq, in her quiet and ladylike way; gradually, we learn that this is a love story that isn't.

Twice, Juliette lets an elevator door close between herself and what she wants, and Nadda wisely lets the camera linger on Clarkson, who doesn't need dialogue to tell a story. In the elevator, she seems to collapse, blowing out her breath as if she needs to create air; it's a sweet, funny little moment from a character we suddenly realize we love.

"Cairo Time" is perhaps too restrained for its own good; you wish we knew more about these people as they stroll. But it's a lovely portrait of a city (those pyramids in early-morning sunlight are a wonder) and of a woman — and a rare chance for Clarkson, usually working her magic in supporting roles, to step into the spotlight.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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