Caramel (2007): Heartwarming Movie of Five Women’s Struggle Finding Happiness

The film Caramel, directed by Nadine Lakabki, showcases five women who are united by a salon but dealing with issues surrounding family, love, and culture. The owner of the salon and wax specialist Layale, played by Nadine Lakabki, faces internal hardship when realizing her love with a married man will not survive and suffering when her family asks her about marriage. Nisrine, played by Yasmine Al Massri, is Muslim and engaged with a man she loves, yet is hiding a secret that she is frightened if anyone knew, she is not a virgin. Rima, played by Joanna Moukarzel, begins having feelings for a female client in which she learns more of her sexuality. Jamale, played by Gisele Aouad, is older compared to the women around her which she feels insecure about, and tries changing her look and lying about her period to make her feel young. The fifth woman who viewers understand is Rose, played by Sihame Haddad, who lives with her older sister and spends all her time carrying for her, putting her issues aside to have attention towards her sister. A light-hearted film filled with humor and moments of charm for each character comprehends issues within women that can be widely understood. These women all face unique challenges but still have love in their hearts for happiness. Setting in Beirut, many aspects in the film are from Arab culture that adds to conflicts yet are easily understood when knowing the norms in the Middle East. When Layale was wanting to celebrate her secret lover’s birthday, she visited multiple hotels to be turned down when asked for proof of marriage. Hotels in western culture do not require couples to prove their marriage because of the common dating practice. In the Middle East, couples are only to be together when they have wed, dating is not a practice widely accepted. Layale finds a hotel willing to offer a room but in an unpleasant business surrounding vulgar actions. This presents the social view of their relationship being improper and rejected.

As well, Layale would give out fake names to not have people knowing her business, but this was not the first time in the movie fake names were used. Nisrine feels distressed with a secret she is hiding from her fiancé, confessing to her friends that she is not a virgin, something not alarming to other parts of the world but in the Middle East would affect a marriage. Noticing her family wearing hijab we can assume she is Muslim and is frowned upon to have sexual relations before marriage. In the film, Nisrine goes to the hospital in disguise, with support from Layale and Jamale to have hymen reconstructive surgery. Key elements in this scene are crucial in understanding the importance but shame in a procedure. When Nisrine is lying down having the procedure done, the camera hovers over her face to show weakened eyes, a morose moment staring at a woman filled with emotional pain. All three of the girls in disguise trying to keep secret their identities with fake names and sunglasses, especially from the medical staff. Nisrine picks up a French identity in which the nurse noticed and tried to communicate to Nisrine in French. The nurse knowing French is not unusual because of the history with Lebanon being occupied by the French, which resulted in French being a popular language spoken in Lebanon and used commonly with everyday conversations.

Rose’s older sister Lili, played by Aziza Semaan, is a charming character with unusual actions that would make the audience laugh, but the reason was not only for humor. Lili multiple time in the film mentions her fiancé she is in love with and waiting for, but she suffers from dementia and it is not real. Rose and a French customer begin liking each other and he invited her to a cafe, which was an important point in Rose’s character development because she changed every part of her appearance but ended up not going with the realization that she must stay and care for Lili, not leave but sacrifice her happiness for her sisters. This scene signifies women’s view of themselves believing they are not worthy of love while struggling with being true to themselves instead of painting an image people would want. Another scene with Rose and Lili that ends the movie with a unique hidden message is with the camera still as both are walking away in the streets, with Lili picking up paper and Rose to help. Knowing of Lili’s attachment to paper around the town like tickets on cars, which she believes are letters from her imagined fiancé, this scene presents the burden women carry from love and happiness while continuing to have faith. Rose helping her pick paper displays their love and helping hand with Rose wanting happiness for her sister, which is selfless and many women sacrifice their needs for the people they love.

Ultimately, the film portrays other issues with women from points that themselves have not caused but the pain from social ideas that women carry worldwide. Despite cultural differences, a movie with the title of a sugary dessert used for wax and symbolizing their anger, which Layale uses against the wife of the man she is seeing, can agree that it is a well-written film with powerful character growth. Characters outside from the main five have hidden pain as well that tie together different but combining agony. The film showcases a different enjoyable story for a dark topic that has survived for decades with viewers who have not felt the pain portrayed can understand through the terrific acting and loving characters. Many angles of women’s struggles were illustrated with intentions for realization. These struggles seem to go unnoticed and are as if an unspoken norm that was established, while if one woman decides to do something for herself and reach her happiness then she is viewed negatively for her being selfish or not traditional. A woman’s worth is valued with her strength of dealing with issues as she stays showcasing herself as content with her main properties for pleasing others. A film with many hidden messages for viewers to question and think about the reason Director Nadine Labaki adding these scenes, with different backgrounds and ages.

Sources: Caramel. YouTube. (2020, July 1). (2007, August 9). Caramel. IMDb.

10 thoughts on “Caramel (2007): Heartwarming Movie of Five Women’s Struggle Finding Happiness

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