Movie review of “Mustang”: An unexpected blend of fairy tale and stark drama, “Mustang” is the story of five orphaned sisters locked away while a cruel relative seeks to marry all of them off. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
A compelling, feral energy partly defines the close bond between five young, orphaned sisters in the fablelike Turkish film “Mustang.”
Set in a village by the sea, the story — though considerably tragic — is often punctuated by a raw, primal power. The girls, who all attend the same school and live with their protective grandmother (Nihal Koldas) and cruel Uncle Erol (Ayberk Pekcan), are given to explosive resistance as a group whenever one of them is threatened.
The sheer wildness in the way they collectively strike out and smash things looks like pack survival. It’s no wonder that, in other ways, their relationship with the world seems equally primeval: plucking apples from a forbidden garden, innocently sitting on the shoulders of boys while splashing and frolicking at the beach.
Movie Review ★★★
‘Mustang,’ with Gunes Nezihe Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Elit Iscan, Tugba Sunguroglu, Ilayda Akdogan, Nihal Koldas, Ayberk Pekcan. Directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven, from a screenplay by Ergüven and Alice Winocour. 97 minutes. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content and a rude gesture. In Turkish, with English subtitles. Seven Gables.
It’s the latter that brings the sisters’ naive paradise to an end. A neighbor rats them out for scandalous behavior, and grandmother panics while an enraged Erol lowers the boom. The girls — in ascending order, Lale (Gunes Nezihe Sensoy), Nur (Doga Zeynep Doguslu), Ece (Elit Iscan), Selma (Tugba Sunguroglu) and Sonay (Ilayda Akdogan) — become prisoners at home, behind high walls and barred windows, sans computers or phones.
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Erol turns the place into a “wife factory,” pushing out the oldest girls first in arranged marriages before they can be further “sullied.” With an inexorable fate awaiting them, the younger ones — especially the indomitable Lale — seek a way out.
In her feature debut, co-writer and director Deniz Gamze Ergüven finds an unexpected, visually charged blend of fairy tale and stark drama about the maniacal oppression of girls and women.
“Mustang” could easily have been a pure heartbreaker, but it isn’t. It is surprisingly nuanced and even something of an adventure tale about a fight for freedom and identity.