Caramel (‘Sukkar Banat’)

ROMANTIC COMEDY; 1hr 35min (Arabic with subtitles)

STARRING: Nadine Labaki, Yasmine Al Masri, Joanna Moukarzel, Gisèle Aouad, Siham Haddad

Lip sync: from left, Labaki and Moukarzel

Beirut hairdressers Layale (Labaki), Nisrine (Al Masri) and Rima (Moukarzel), devoted client Jamale (Aouad) and seamstress Rose (Haddad) all have romantic fish to fry. Layale is mixed up with a married man. Nisrine is engaged but has a guilty conscience. Rima is gay and isolates herself behind her earphones. Abandoned by her husband for a younger woman, Jamale clings with brassy bravado to a vanished youth. And Rose, lovely at 65, has let her life be consumed by the care of her dotty sister, Lili (Aziza Semaan).


It sounds like the set-up for a two-star soap but director, co-writer and star Labaki and her cast of non-pros are too clever by half for that. The women’s lives are earthed in familiar soil — they work, they worry and they muddle through all sorts of setbacks with wry perseverance and each other for support. The caramel of the title is used in Lebanon as a depilatory wax. Sweet, elastic and potentially excruciating, it’s a tasty metaphor for the sticky business of finding your way through love.