The Aquarium

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**** (Four stars)
This sixth the feature by Cairo-born director Yousry Nasrallah is a lot like the ornamental ecosphere of its title: mesmerizing, yet also impenetrable, as if the world onscreen were behind glass. While the story focuses on two contemporary Cairenes—a doctor and a radio host—the film is really a codependent’s love letter to the city itself, portraying a metropolis trapped between past and future, modernity and fundamentalism, autocracy and democracy. Youssef (Amr Waked) is an anesthesiologist who moonlights at an abortion clinic; Laila (Hend Sabri) is sort of a Dr. Ruth of the nighttime airwaves. Progressive by the region’s standards, Youssef and Laila struggle separately to balance their own longings for freedom and love with familial obligations. Nasrallah was once a film critic, and it shows in his many deconstructive tangents (actors, for instance, stepping out of character to address the camera). But his gorgeous stream of imagery is too strong to resist: Like the Nile, the film flows inexorably, drawing its protagonists together—and us along with them.—Howard Halle, editor-at-large

[This is a TONY staff review, written for the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival. It is not considered an official review and should not be read as such. Please think of it as a casual impression from a movie-loving friend.] 

Release details

Release date: Wednesday March 26 2008
Duration: 0 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Yousry Nasrallah
Screenwriter: Nasser Abdel-Rahmane