Five teenagers grow up in a very conservative Turkish village. From early age it is expected that they will marry with a boy the elders prefer, rather than loose themselves in foolish romance. What makes the movie so appealing is the outstanding acting performances of the five teenagers and the realistic way the plot develops. Mustang at the same time offers a laugh and a tear; the viewer is offered the perspective of young ladies growing up, discovering their sexuality and being told that this is a bad thing.
Distinctly and subtly directed by Turkish-French filmmaker Deniz Gamze Ergüven, this quietly paced fictional tale which is narrated by the main character and interchangeably from multiple viewpoints, draws a pensively humane portrayal of sisters by circumstance, living with foster carers in a village in the Republic of Turkey, whom after being young girls which involves playing with boys at their school and causing a consequential situation, is introduced to housework, virginity tests and arranged marriages. While notable for its distinctly atmospheric milieu depictions and cinematography by cinematographer David Chizallet and Ersin Gök, this character-driven and narrative-driven story about the towering will and the freedom of the child where a sweepingly generalizing comment is uttered about feminists not understanding and denouncing maternity which is as generalizing as saying that every mother denounces all single women or vice-versa or that every mother is or have to be an anti-feminist because she has chosen to become a parent and a she in agonizing reluctance has to say goodbye to her mother, depicts some studies of character and contains a great and timely score by composer Warren Ellis.
What bothered me the most about the film was the fact that certain characters weren’t very developed, specifically the teacher, and the driver that frequently helps the younger sister, i simply wished that the script devoted more time to explaining their motivation. Also the ending seamed very unexpected, and not in a good way, it simply wasn’t foreshadowed enough for it to be satisfying.
The movie’s overall atmosphere made me think of Sofia Coppola’s “The Virgin Suicides”, even if “Mustang’s ending is nothing like it. The acting performances are superb throughout, in particular from the young lady who plays Lale (the youngest sister, and the movie’s emotional lynch-pin). I found myself emotionally invested in this movie from start to finish. It is not a surprise then that this was just nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Movie
Director Ergüven coaxes some remarkable performances out of her five youthful actors as the daughters. Her cinematic style is brisk, even though there are perhaps too many extreme close-ups that draw our attention away from the characters’ expressions rather than focusing on them. Nonetheless MUSTANG is a powerful film.
Mustang gets an 8.0/10.