The lives and loves of five Lebanese women make up this sweet chick-flick.

A Beirut beauty shop is the focal point for Nadine Labaki's romantic dramedy that ambles comfortably through the lives of five women like their sixth friend. The incidents are relatively small -- an affair with a married man, an impending wedding, potential romance, aging -- yet they acquire greater urgency and poignancy when reflected against Lebanon's contemporary but still restrictive culture. (The women are mostly Catholic.) Without being preachy, Labaki's film suggests that the women's greatest strength is a fierce, if quiet allegiance to themselves -- and to each other. It's familiar stuff, but with fine, understated performances, Caramel is an enjoyable evening out with the girls. In Arabic and French, with subtitles. Starts Fri., March 14. Squirrel Hill (AH) capsule review]

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