banner image

:: Sukkar Banat (Caramel)

Title: Caramel
Caramel is a charming Lebanese romance film which focuses on the lives of 5 women who all converge in a beauty salon in Beirut. Layale (Nadine Labaki, who also writes and directs) is a young Christian lady embroiled in an affair with a married man; Nisrine (Yasmine Al Masri) is a young Muslim lady due to marry, yet in a desperate attempt to hide her non-virginity she undergoes a medical procedure; Rima (Joanna Moukarzel) is uncomfortable with her homosexuality which is taboo in her country; Jamale (Gisele Aouad) is an aging small time actress who abuses plastic surgery to hide her age; and Rose (Siham Haddad) has placed her life on hold to take care of her elderly sister Lili (Aziza Semaan).

As the title implies, Caramel is a sweet film, but not sickly sweet. A radiant golden glow envelopes the movie in certain scenes, and the beautifully composed, melodic string instrument driven score by Khaled Mouzannar enhances its exotic and sensual undercurrent. (A particular scene involving Rima washing a mystery woman’s hair radiates a strong sexual energy).

The stories of these women are extremely touching, as each of them try to obtain love and freedom on their own terms. The basis of their stories is often sad in circumstance, as their wants and needs are often derailed due to a combination of external factors and internal guilt. It is simply a tragedy to witness ones pursuit of happiness fall at the wayside due to there own inconsistent and contradictive choices.

All of the films performances are superb, which is quite a feat considering that – with the exception of Nadine Labaki – none of these women have acted in a film before. Special mention should be given to Sihom Haddad, who gives a heartbreaking portrayal of loneliness as Rose. As expected, Caramel confronts a number of pressing issues, most notably sex, love and religion – both Muslim and Christian (with Mother Mary often evoked as a symbol of purity and protection) – and does so elegantly and tastefully. In turn, Caramel is filled with more dignity, class, and realism than a Sex and the City could ever muster.