Early summer. In a village in northern Turkey, Lale and her four sisters are walking home from school, playing innocently with some boys. The immorality of their play sets off a scandal that has unexpected consequences. The family home is progressively transformed into a prison; instruction in homemaking replaces school and marriages start being arranged. The five sisters who share a common passion for freedom, find ways of getting around the constraints imposed on them.Written by
Festival de Cannes
"Mustang" is a great title for a great example of a foreign film.
According to Wikipedia, "The English word mustang is derived from the Spanish word mestengo (variant of mesteño), defined as 'wild, stray, ownerless'." The image and idea of a wild, ownerless horse has inspired imaginations throughout the western world and led to the word mustang representing sports cars, airplanes, ships, cities, sports teams and even used by artists, musicians, businesses and by some politicians who consider themselves rogue agents of change. 2015 added to the word's long list of uses the French-Turkish drama "Mustang" (PG-13, 1:37), which became France's submission for the 88th Annual Academy Awards and was nominated for (and was a strong contender for) the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Given its subject matter and quality, "Mustang" is a great name for a great film.
The movie explores the relationships and lives of five adolescent sisters living in the seaside village of Inebolu in north-central Turkey. Inebolu is known for, among other things, the spirited (and successful) defense it mounted when attacked during the Turkish War for Independence. Fittingly, these five girls (played by Güneş Şensoy, Doğa Doğuşlu, Elit İşcan, Tuğba Sunguroğlu and İlayda Akdoğan) are also very spirited. You might even call them wild (in a strongly independent sense), they are kind of ownerless – as orphans living with their grandmother (Nihal Koldaş) and uncle (Ayberk Pekcan) – and they are quite prone to stray from the strict expectations of their strongly conservative society – as much as they can.
When the girls are caught innocently frolicking in the sea with some of their (gasp) male classmates one day after school, their lives change suddenly and dramatically. After much yelling and some beatings from their caregivers, the girls are confined to the house and lose almost all contact with the outside world, except for the people that their uncle and grandmother bring to the house. Telephones and computers are locked in a closet, bars are placed over the windows, clothing the girls chose for themselves are replaced by drab, formless dresses and daily life becomes an endless series of home economics classes in which female relatives come by to teach the girls how to be proper Turkish wives.
Also coming by the house is a parade of single young men with whom grandma begins arranging marriages for the girls. She's starting with the oldest and plans on working her way down the line. The girls, however, have other ideas. Without revealing too much about the rest of the movie, I'll just say that what grandma intends to be a succession of five cookie-cutter weddings doesn't work out exactly the way she and the girls' uncle plan. In spite of instances of abuse and the increasingly severe limitations on their personal freedom, the girls still fight to be themselves, spread their wings, meet boys on their own, keep supporting each other and enjoy each other's company as long as possible.
"Mustang" represents the best in foreign film. Besides co-writing the script, this is French-Turkish filmmaker Deniz Gamze Ergüven's directorial debut and she gives us a film which displays consistently expert tone and pacing. Some of the plot points feel overly dramatic, but this story takes an important look at extremely conservative southwestern Asia societies. Most westerners won't be able to readily relate to the lives of these girls, but the interesting story and very natural performances draw in the audience for an entertaining experience while helping them understand the world in which they live. "Mustang" is also largely a celebration of sisterhood and feminine empowerment, but it's hard to imagine anyone not being touched by this very personal and dramatic story. "A-"
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