Time Out says
Egypt’s ancient majesty is the real star in this bittersweet romance starring Andrea Riseborough
Narratively at least, writer-director Zeina Durra’s sparse, meditative relationship drama is a bit like walking in on Richard Linklaker’s Before Midnight without ever meeting the younger version of Jesse and Celine.
Andrea Riseborough is Hana, a quiet, composed British doctor and aid worker left traumatised by a stint treating the war-wounded on the Jordan-Syria border. She has returned to Luxor in Egypt, where she spent time as a student, and she eventually runs into Sultan (Karim Saleh), a charming archaeologist she dated back in the day.
It’s a study in middle-aged wistfulness, and the sacrifices people make to lead unconventional lives, and how they push on beyond the fire of youth. Both Hana and Sultan have found their callings, and seem content enough to accept they will never settle down – but there’s an undeniable emptiness to her life, in particular. The trauma has knocked some of the thrill out of it for her, and it’s not been replaced by a desire to return to England and settle down. It’s been replaced by, well, nothing.
Riseborough’s wry, cool-headed Hana is confident but muted, drifting on a clinical autopilot until Saleh’s likeable Sultan – who does have the tiniest smidge of Indiana Jones charisma – prompts a bittersweet reawakening. It’s minor-key and wistful, with a beautifully delicate turn from Riseborough. It might be a touch too sparse to really grip, were it not for the third and most potent character: Luxor itself. Zelmira Gainza’s cinematography is absolutely ravishing: slow pans over ancient ruins, brooding biblical landscapes and endless walls of hieroglyphs. Hana and Sultan’s tale feels both dwarfed but also elevated by the stark, mystical world around them.
Available to stream in the UK now, and on Dec 4 in the US.
Cast and crew