In her gorgeous and love-affirming feature debut – which was the sleeper hit of the 2007 Cannes Film Festival – Nadine Labaki finds gold in the hot goo used to strip body hair. Set in and around a Beirut beauty salon, Caramel stirs together the smooth and the crunchy of five women’s lives. Nisrine (Yasmine Al Masri) is a spirited bombshell on the verge of marrying a conservative Muslim – but she is no longer a virgin. Jamale (Gisèle Aouad), an aging actress, goes to absurd lengths to hold back time. Rima (Joanna Moukarzel) suppresses her attraction to other women, until her own dream girl walks through the door. Seamstress Rose (Sihame Haddad) deflects the attentions of a gentleman suitor to care for her older sister. And Layale, the owner and lifeblood of the salon, carries on a hopeless – but very satisfying – affair with a married man. When her lover beeps his car horn outside the shop, the other women roll their eyes, but they let her go.
Labaki herself plays Layale, leading an ensemble cast that generates enormous warmth and wit onscreen. As director, Labaki gives the film a rich visual field, shooting the salon with a touch of Wong Kar-wai in her layered, burnished compositions.
Toronto Film Festival Programme
Nadine Labaki, Yasmine Al Masri, Joanna Moukarzel, Gisèle Aouad