I wish I had seen Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s ‘Mustang’ back in 2015. Had I, It would have been my top film of the year. Yes, it’s that good.
‘Mustang’ is about five sisters living in a rural village in Turkey, with the main focus the youngest sister, Lale (Newcomer Güneş Şensoy). One day, as the sisters walk home from school, they play by the seaside with male classmates. When a gossipy/self-appointed moral guardian sees the girls and misrepresents their actions as lewd and perverted, the girls’ lives change. Under social pressure, the grandmother isolates the girls and prepares to marry them off. However, the girls are not willing to go quietly- they attest their innocence, mouth off, sneak out, demand some say in their life. As the number of sisters at her side dwindles, Lale perseveres until the very end, leading to a nail-biting climax and a heartwarming ending.
If this were an American-made film, this very easily could have become a “Poor Oppressed Muslim Girls” story. Instead, religion doesn’t factor into the plot much. The oppression in this film comes not from religion as much as it does from gossip, small town pressure, the moral superiority of others, and outdated gender roles- all of which are real not only in Turkey, but all over the globe. Because of this, Lale and her sisters are not only fighting for themselves, they are representing girls everywhere who’ve faced the same troubles.
Speaking of the sisters, it should be noted that all of the actresses, save for one, are newcomers to acting. You wouldn’t be able to tell. They carry themselves with confidence, but are natural enough so they are not overacting. Keep an eye on Güneş Şensoy. She gives a powerful performance and commands the screen in a way I haven’t seen a young actress do since Quvenzhané Wallis in ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild.’
Few films recently have kept me this involved and invested, singing its praises this long. This is a film that must be seen, and I hope you take advantage of the fact that Derry has a copy!
Review by BiblioMecha