Sticky sweet caramel


Caramel (Sekkar Banat)

Year: 2007

Language: Lebanese Arabic

Director: Nadine Labaki

Cast: Nadine Labaki, Adel Karam, Yasmine Al Masri

The story in a nutshell is simple: Four women and a beauty salon in Beirut, and the caramel that holds them together.

Layale (Labaki), Nisrine (Al Masri) and Rima work at a Beauty Salon in Beirut. Jamale is a regular customer there and the four women are close friends. The movie shows the challenges of living in a closeted society where pre-marital sex is taboo, virginity is held at high premium and the desire for freedom comes at a cost. Layale is in a frustrating relationship with a married man, one who she hopes will leave his wife for her but we know that will never happen. Nisrine is about to marry her boyfriend and we realise her secret is something that many Indian women who are about to marry, also harbor. Her fiancé is not going to be her first time. She is not a virgin. So the four women discuss ways to fix this, many of which are intensely comical like when Jamale suggests dabbing a little dove’s blood on the sheet. Nisrine ultimately decides to go for a hymenoplasty!

Rima tries to understand her lesbian side and realises she is attracted only to women, especially a customer at the salon. It is apparent to the viewer that it would be next to impossible to come out peacefully in Lebanese society. Jamale fights her inevitable ageing with make-up and countless auditions for commercials, realising that her youth is slipping away from her. She tries everything to hold on to it and you will know the extent to which she goes for this when you watch the movie. A sweet angle to the movie is the sister duo of Rose and Lily who live across the street from the salon. Lily is mentally challenged and we see how Rose’s responsibility towards her is always tugging at her longing to live her life fully, find love and know desire. 

Verdict: Caramel is a sweet comedy about serious issues and I thought it was fitting to review it this month, especially as debates about women’s freedom rage around the country.
Rating: 4stars
Hot: Completely realistic storyline, resounding with stories we hear in India.
Not: I completely enjoyed the movie. I can’t think of a Not!