Caramel* Review

Caramel film still

Score

Offers a tender and nuanced insight into the lives of five women.

Dedicated by writer, director and star Nadine Labaki 'To my Beirut', Caramel offers a tender and nuanced insight into the lives of five women, and the unlikely sorority they form behind the closed doors of a Lebanese beauty salon.

In the lead role of Layale, Labaki plays the Christian salon owner who is guiltily embroiled in what the News of the World would be obliged to term a 'torrid affair'. Her friend Nisrine, an engaged Muslim, desperately tries to conceal the fact that she is not a virgin from her would-be husband, while salon assistant Rima questions her sexuality altogether.

Completing the quintet are ageing TV actress Jamale, and Rose, an elderly spinster whose fading chances of love are further compromised by the demands of her senile sister.

A sharp script and flawless lead performances provide the bedrock for a subtle and touching domestic drama, complemented by Labaki’s mesmeric attention to detail. Her use of sound design and warm lighting builds up a sensual and captivating world within the walls of the salon, in which you can almost smell the waxing caramel on the stove. For all its sweetly observed touches, however, Caramel is no saccharine treat.

Moments of unexpected intimacy abound, from Nisrine’s trip to a clinic where a few well-placed stitches can miraculously restore her virginity, to the heart-breaking scenes in which Layale tends to the cosmetic needs of her lover’s unsuspecting wife.

The fact that the film’s shoot wrapped just three days before the Israeli assault of summer 2006 lends a palpable air of prelapsarian innocence to proceedings, justly reminding us that the richness of Lebanese culture extends far beyond the images of regional strife which usually dominate western headlines.

Anticipation

Potentially less exciting than a 90 minute ‘Head and Shoulders’ advert.

2

Enjoyment

Here’s the science bit: relieves those frown lines and brightens your face with laughter.

4

In Retrospect

Full of texture, character and gloss. Why take two films into the shower?

4
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