Caramel

  • Year:2008
  • Rating:M
  • Cast:Gisele Aouad, Nadine Labaki, Yasmine Al Masri, Joanna Moukarzel
  • Release Date:September 18, 2008
  • Distributor:Hopscotch
  • Running time:95 minutes
  • Film Worth:$12.50
  • FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

“…recommended to anyone who loves quality cinema.”

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This gem from Lebanon about five women's lives will no doubt be compared to Sex And The City...as every chick flick henceforth will. But Caramel isn't about sex - it's about sensuality. The opening sequence of the cooking of the "caramel" - the sticky, edible substance used like wax for hair removal - hooks you instantly, and the film doesn't really let you go until well after you've left the cinema.

Caramel is the directorial debut for Nadine Labaki, who also co-wrote and plays the central character Layale, who's hung up on a faceless married man. Layale's colleagues and customers at a Beirut beauty salon - all played superbly by non-professionals - also have their own dramas. Nisrine (Yasmine Al Masri), a Muslim about to be married, is trying to maintain a virginal front for her fiancé, while Rima (Joanna Moukarzel) is attracted to a mysterious female client. But the most enjoyable characters are the older women - Jamale (Gisele Aouad), a single mum desperately fearful of ageing, and Rose (Siham Haddad), who's duty-bound to her charmingly senile sister.

Gently humorous and touching, Caramel also looks wonderful, with its rich golden brown palette. Labaki has an artist's eye. She doesn't use stunning cityscapes and scenery, instead finding magic in the seemingly mundane - her depiction of Beirut's narrow streets and lived-in, cluttered apartments is consistently striking. Unlike Sex And The City, there's no controversy as to whether this will or won't appeal to male viewers - it's recommended to anyone who loves quality cinema. Perhaps the dramatic moments could have been stronger, and none of the individual tales are worthy of their own film. But taken together, the women tell a universal story about the beauty and battles of daily life.

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