Starring: Günes Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu
Director: Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Running Time: 97 mins
Mustang is a Turkish film about five young girls who, after having been seen playing innocently with boys on the beach, are chastised by their traditional elders, who put them straight onto the road to arranged marriage.
On the one hand a saddening portrayal of cultural oppression and aggressive traditionalism, yet on the other a sweet, often uplifting coming-of-age drama, Mustang is really quite a special film. With moving emotion playing out alongside its passionate core themes, it hits home in a unique and memorable way, all the while impressing with five excellent lead performances from its young stars.
First things first, you’ll have often come across films that deal with oppression in the modern day, and while that’s always a worthy subject matter, it can often be a rather heavy-going and sometimes offputting topic, especially when you fancy sitting down for something a little bit more pleasing.
Mustang isn’t like that, and while it does have moments of hard-hitting, sobering emotion and drama, it remembers to keep a glimmer of hope and liveliness in the picture, bringing an uplifting stroke of humanity to what can at times feel like a very dour series of events.
It’s a difficult balance to strike, but director Deniz Gamze Ergüven does very well to make sure that the more positive aspects of the story are just as clear as the darker parts, and that’s why Mustang, for all of its social commentary, is above all a really moving coming-of-age drama.
With a group of young, orphan girls beginning to find their own place in the world, they find themselves challenged by traditional rules and roles, something that only exacerbates their concerns about the world, and pushes them further into a young process of maturing.
In that, Mustang combines that social commentary brilliantly with its discourse about growing up and forging a new way in the world, bringing in both a heartwarming and empowering vision of the future of women in Turkish society, but also a saddening note of reality that doesn’t entirely end with the perfect tying-up that you might wish to see.
Above all, however, Mustang is a really memorable and unique watch. For a film that could have been a really dour, upsetting look at injustice and real struggle, it works wonders by showing that small shining light of positivity at the same time, something that’s further borne out by the impressively mature yet still sweet and wonderfully innocent lead performances by the young leading quintet.
Overall, I was really impressed by Mustang. A short and simple film on the outside, it packs a big punch with moving emotional drama and passionate themes throughout. Brilliantly combining social commentary with coming-of-age drama, it’s a unique watch, and its commitment to bringing a positive, ultimately uplifting perspective on events that are still recognised as very serious is wonderful to see, which is why I’m giving it a 7.7.