Juliette (Patricia Clarkson) travels to Cairo for a holiday to meet her husband, a United Nations official working in Gaza. She's clearly unhappy—but happy to be away; wistful piano music underscores her unease. Her husband's delayed, and Tariq (Alexander Siddig) a former aide, steps in to shepherd her around the unfamiliar city. Shockingly, her husband did not teach her a word of Arabic or suggest she keep her head covered to avoid attracting unwelcome attention. Her vaguely Orientalist daydream about the mysterious East is repeatedly shattered: by her solo walks as she's trailed by vaguely threatening men, by an upsetting bus ride towards Gaza in the hopes of meeting her husband and by her dangerously uninformed do-gooder instinct. All the while, her relationship with the elegant Tariq grows closer. Written and directed by Ruba Nadda, the cinematography of Cairo is exceptional, as is the quiet performance of Siddig as the enigmatic Tariq. This festival favorite is pitched as a mature romance in the spirit of David Lean's Brief Encounter
. Is this the season for unhappy American women finding contentment in mysterious countries full of exotic others? One can't help but think that an Arabic phrase book and a hijab might have made for a more fulfilling vacation for droopy Juliette.