Juliet (Clarkson) is an American fashion-magazine editor whose visit to her Cairo-based husband is thwarted when his U.N. work takes him to Gaza. He asks his former colleague, Tareq (Siddig), to guide her around the Egyptian capital, which she's discovered is uncomfortable for a Western woman on her own. At first, the two are stiffly, politely resentful of each other. But as they slowly relax, even Tareq speaking her name becomes palpably sensual---and that loaded name becomes the only unsubtle aspect of their star-crossed attraction.
"Under its facade, Cairo is still a dangerous city," Tareq tells her, yet the stakes here remain so doggedly small-scale that they require a patience not everyone will muster (though they should). Everything, from the city itself to the minuet of the couple's courtship, moves glacially and in a honeyed haze, rarely penetrated by the harsher realities of the Middle East. Director Ruba Nadda focuses instead on Clarkson and Siddig's powerfully feline chemistry, punctuated by long, wordless gazes that only actors of this caliber could pull off. For a movie defined by its restraint, this travelogue is remarkably physical; as a valentine to the rueful desire of grown-ups acquainted with both joy and disappointment, the film is a true rarity.---Lisa Rosman
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