Starring: Güneş Şensoy
Running time: 97 minutes
Country: Turkey, France, Germany
Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Directed by: Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Written by Nelson Cumming
Mustang is the first foreign movie I have reviewed. My first taste of reviewing foreign films has been great. This is a movie with a premise that could have filled with clichés and tiresome movie tropes. But with the direction of Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Mustang manages to portray the characters and themes with a delicate grace and effortless beauty.
Mustang tells the story of these five girls living with their conservative father and grandmother. These girls are at the period in their life where they want fun and liberation from their strict rules and guidelines that they live. They are not allowed games or, phones or any form of entertainment. The movie shows the battle between the girls choosing their destiny and their father and grandmother who want to choose it for them.
I thought the performances from everyone was great, especially the father. I believe that he was important in the story, as was nearly everyone in the movie. It is hard to find a bad performance. The father brought edge-of-your-seat tension in the climatic scene and his young daughter called Lane is a girl that represented the purest form of freedom and wonder. All the young girls want to break free from the traditions of their household, but she plays the guiding light amongst all of them. She plays the role beautifully and with such conviction. She is guided well by a great cinematographer.
Speaking of the cinematography it is a delight to see. The cinematographers David Chizallet Ersin Gok make the whole movie easy to watch as it is either shot in a way that makes you feel relaxed while watching it or he would get better close-up angles that made me understand why these girls want to have fun. The movie shows that fun is natural and you understand why these characters break the rules of their household. The story doesn’t celebrate hedonism. It celebrates freedom as a cathartic experience. The cinematographers aren’t as great at shooting sublime awe-inspiring things like Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree of Life, Gravity, The Revenant) but is great at small, minimal things that create beauty and life toward a scene.
The script is also well written. There are lines that deliver great poignancy and emotional payoffs are earned. There are also a couple of comedic lines and quips that worked while not breaking the brevity of the moment. There is a scene where one of the girls is going to be given as a dowry (which she doesn’t want but is being forced to) and she is at the family table with her soon-to-be husband. The grandmother says to her “how well do you know each other” and she responds “by face” with contempt in her body language and facial expression. The scene worked really well by the delivery of the line and it makes me chuckle a little, yet I understood her pain. There are also funny lines that the grandmother says that are just brilliant. She gets one scene to herself and she owns it.
There is an emotional payoff at the end of the movie that was shot so well and it was so uplifting and I thought, “This is a great movie”. No sooner should that thought enter my head that there is an even better emotional payoff at the final shot in the movie. This is a movie that had a premise that could have been overused tripe, but the filmmakers turned it into something that is impressive and so awe-inspiring. This movie is one of the rare exceptions where it is predictable, but you want the movie to go the predictable path because they portray an overused story from a different perspective and turned it on its head. I think if they did twists in the movie, it would have hurt the movie. I was glad that that didn’t happen.
Mustang is a different film that breaks from the mold through its directorial approach. Instead of loud action movies with tons of special effects or a comedy that tries too hard to make us laugh Mustang is a movie that shows simplicity. It gives you air to breathe, it is two hours longs and feels like 90 minutes. It is a movie that is life-affirming despite the dark themes that surround it. Mustang is an undeniably great film. ****3/4