Review by Cameron Maitland.
I have to admit that when I see a synopsis at a film festival that reads “a romantic-comedy about Lebanese women in Beirut”, I assume that “Lebanese” and “Beirut” are in bold capitals while “romantic-comedy” is in faint, small print. But Caramel, Actor/Writer/Director Nadine Labaki’s story of five women who work in and around a Beirut beauty shop, surprised me with its strong emphasis on comedy and romance and subtly interweaved cultural politics that fit within the story.
Rather than focus on the idea of winning love and that curing troubles, Labaki shows five women desperate for happiness in the various stages of love. Layale the waxer (Labaki herself) is disappointed with her illicit affair and ignorant of the admiration felt by the local police officer. Rima, the punk-ish colourist, looks for love outside of men while Nisrine the aesthetician is married but holds a secret from her fiancée. The most desperate situations come for Jamale, a divorced an aging actress trying to convince the world she is still young, and Rose, the motherly local seamstress who attempts to balance first-time courtship with taking care of the amusingly crazy Lili.
Each of these threads expertly balances comedy and high emotion, combining the relatively saccharine with a cynical nature to create a film based on the pain and whimsy of love which surprises in its emotional turns. Technically the film also shines as Labaki has an eye for on-screen sensuality and paints a captivating visual landscape of sepias and dark auburns. Caramel is a film that defies expectations, delights in its emotion and I only hope this debut marks a beginning of a long career for Labaki behind the camera as well as in front of it.
Nadine Labaki | Lebanon | 2007 | 95min
Fri. Sept. 28 | 6:20pm | Empire Granville Theatre
Mon. Oct. 1 | 1:00pm | Empire Granville Theatre