Mustang

In a Turkish village, five orphaned sisters live under strict rule while members of their family prepare their arranged marriages.

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  • ★★★★ review by CinemaClown on Letterboxd

    Undeniably amongst the most powerful, provocative & pragmatic narratives to surface on the silver screen in recent years, Mustang is a beautifully balanced blend of skillful direction, sensible writing & terrific performances that takes a much-needed dig at patriarchy & conservatism and also works as a joyful celebration of sisterhood.

    Set in a small Turkish village, the story of Mustang follows five young orphaned sisters whose lives are changed completely when they are caught harmlessly playing with some boys on a beach, after which their conservative family bars them from going to school anymore and begins marrying them off one by one without their consent.

    Co-written & directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven in what is actually her feature film debut, Mustang takes only a few minutes to establish the strong bond between the five sisters before stepping into the realm of absurd social & cultural restraints that snatches away their freedom in the blink of an eye plus every restriction imposed upon them turns out to be both nonsensical & unnerving.

    The screenplay is no slouch either for it packs in an engaging storyline that smoothly unfolds over the course of its runtime and is filled with meaty characters whose arcs are well-defined plus they also exhibit surprising depths. Ergüven never goes in-your-face with her critical stance on orthodox mentality but simply exposes the challenges women face when growing up in such environment.

    The technical aspects are thoroughly refined and work in harmony to further uplift the film's tone & ambience to the desired level. Camera is expertly utilised, always keeping its focus on the relevant characters, while the bright colour palette reflects the strength & joy the siblings find in each other's company even in the bleakest of circumstances. And editing is immaculately carried out as well for every sequence plays a vital role in the story.

    Coming to the performances, Mustang features a relatively inexperienced cast but the contribution from the five girls who play the siblings in this feature is a highlight in itself. The scripted characters do have some flesh on them, thus providing a solid platform for the actors to built their performances upon but they further up the ante by delivering wonderfully layered & highly convincing inputs which makes all the relevant characters in the film stand out.

    The story is told from the perspective of Lale, the youngest of the five siblings, and it is through her that we witness the injustice she & her sisters are subjected to yet what keeps them together is their common passion for freedom & constant pursuit of ways to bypass the unjust restrictions imposed upon them by the elders. And it is this rebellious nature that slowly accumulates as plot progresses & finally concludes with an act of self-preservation that finishes this story on a hopeful note.

    On an overall scale, Mustang is an ingeniously crafted, meticulously layered & deftly measured cinema that's engaging, entertaining & enlightening on more levels than one and for a first time filmmaker, it's an incredibly polished effort. Ergüven's direction exudes both confidence & composure and the story as a whole manages to make its voice heard loud & clear. A fearless celebration of womanhood & a heartfelt rendition of the indomitable will of human spirit, Mustang is a timely & welcome coming-of-age story and is essential viewing in every sense of the word. Do not miss it!

  • ★★★½ review by Dirk van Eck on Letterboxd

    A better The Virgin Suicides than The Virgin Suicides. The contract between the film’s most joyous and its saddest moment could not be much extremer, and neither is insincere. Lale, Nur, Selma, Ece, Sonay — it will be difficult, if not impossible, to find five better leads of such young age for a picture like this. It is not only their first-rate acting skills, but their utmost authenticity in mannerism and expression too, that make Mustang more than just another cinematic critique towards arranged marriages. It is a coming-of-age drama, which reflects upon its five central protagonists as well as the society that so decisively influences their lives, whilst hinting at the transition that is bound to happen, even if former generations do not like it. Attempts will be made to contain them (the girls), attempts will be made to preserve them (the traditions), but they will run away or simply resist, and it has been a long time since an unpretentious message like that has been adapted for the screen with such elegance, straightforwardness and power. It would not even surprise me after watching this if my favourite films of the year (2015) would be a Turkish one for the second consecutive year.

  • ★★★½ review by Mike D'Angelo on Letterboxd

    70/100

    A.V. Club review. Rare case of a film that I started out hating and wound up kind of loving. Early scenes have the five sisters behaving almost as a single organism, manic and undifferentiated; this proves to have a strategic purpose, as they're subsequently "picked off" one by one by the serial killer known as Patriarchy. Comparison to The Virgin Suicides is unavoidable (though I confess that it didn't occur to me until I read other reviews; saw Coppola's film only once, when it opened, and really need to revisit it), but Ergüven's take on the subject is at once less artful and more emotionally direct. For whatever reason, the tradeoff works for me here much more often than not, and the final scene totally wrecked me—despite intermittent unnecessary voiceover from the youngest girl, there hadn't been a hint of what she'd been yearning for all along, and I had no idea where she was heading; the answer was so unexpected and yet so obvious that I promptly burst into tears.

  • ★★★★ review by Wood on Letterboxd

    Based off the poster, I thought this was going to be about girls in a break dance crew. Turns out Turkey doesn't have break dancing, just oppression and sexism.

  • ★★★½ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd

    terribly reductive to call this a Turkish Virgin Suicides, but when the shoe fits... of course, "Turkish" is the operative word there, and the film leans hard into the quirks, foibles, and restriction of its setting, particularly in regards to women ... it's also wonderfully light and dexterous when it's not crossing the line towards generic indications of evil and hypocrisy (one choice made about the uncle's character irritated me something fierce). it's a shame the grip slackens a bit in the last 20 minutes.

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