Review: Mustang (2015)

My Plot review: Thoroughly recommended
Star rating: Star rating of 1 and a half

alt

Make sure you catch this outstanding piece of filmmaking that is sure to set your heart pounding.

From a debut director and a largely unknown cast, Mustang is a movie that begins with a playful and exhilarating tone, which quickly turns into a more sinister story of turmoil and violence.

I was going to give 4 stars, but since reflecting, I've changed my mind. Especially as it was Deniz Gamze Ergüven's first feature film, it deserves a big 5.

Mustang is thought-provoking and energetic from start to finish. It's extremely tense and yet carefully subtle and balanced with clever editing, a perfectly matched soundtrack and an endless sense of hope. At the beginning, the narrator explains, "One minute we were fine. Then everything turned to shit", which is a suitable caption to explain this film in 10 words.

Set against beautiful landscapes in rural Turkey, five young sisters spanning ages from prepubescent to late teens leave school in the sunshine and head to the beach with a group of boys, where they innocently play and frolic.

alt

Extremes of euphoria quickly disappear when the tight-knit group of sisters return home to their grandmother (Nihal G. Koldas) accusing them of rubbing themselves on the boys necks. It is briefly mentioned that they have no parents, and their uncle Erol (Ayberk Pekcan) who is furious when he returns home, sends them all to the hospital for a virginity test.

"One minute we were fine. Then everything turned to shit."

Everything spirals from here as the house is turned into a 'wife factory' and the girls are increasingly caged in, pulled out of school, forced to learn how to cook and clean and placed into arranged marriages one by one. The camera work deftly extends this feeling of imprisonment to the viewer.

The film manages to cover many eventualities on the topic of arranged marriage, depicting how it can result in happiness (albeit when choice is involved), but there is an increasingly harrowing 'other' side of this story too.

There are some particularly troubling scenes, which although largely take place off-camera, really haunt your imagination. Again, the camera work and editing here plays a huge role in the picture's success, with a distinctly Cannes Film Festival deserving arthouse aesthetic.

Despite this, there are also elements of humour, largely through a refreshingly honest portrayal of young girls becoming women and discovering their sexuality, alongside a strong bond of sisterhood. Huge praise goes to the cast playing these roles, especially Lale (Günes Sensoy), who adds a layer of curious naivety and defiance as the youngest sister, trying to make sense of what is happening around her.

alt

One of the biggest achievements has to be the way in which Ergüven does not criticise or blame based on religion, gender or age. Despite the main 'villain' being male, it is another male character who provides salvation. Although some of the elder women are very conservative and only seem to add to the issues the young sisters face, there are others who would do anything to prevent the sisters from being found out or punished.

This, along with a relentless sense of hope which largely lives in Lale's character, prevents this film from being unbearably tragic. Perhaps an optimistic outlook on real life, but it is still a powerful film which leaves a lasting impression.

Make sure you catch this outstanding piece of filmmaking that is sure to set your heart pounding.