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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Movie Review - Mustang

Mustang (2015)
Starring Günes Sensoy, Doga Doguslu, Elit Iscan, Tugba Sunguroglu, Ilayda Akdogan, Nihal Koldas, and Ayberk Pekcan
Directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

France's submission for Foreign Film at this year's Academy Awards, the nominated Mustang is the first film from director and writer Deniz Gamze Ergüben.  Although submitted by France, Mustang takes place in a remote Turkish village with Turkish being spoken -- so the Academy's rules are mystifying to me, but so be it.  Mustang is an indictment against the conservative mindset that still rules over women in some Turkish communities and while it's an intriguing watch in that it allows us a view of a society with which we Americans aren't familiar, it also is written in such a way that it feels like a debut from a screenwriter still learning the ropes.

On a sunny day, five sisters (the actresses are the first five names listed above) bid farewell to a female teacher at their school.  The youngest sibling, Lale, is particularly saddened by her teacher's departure, so the girls decide to walk home instead of taking a bus.  On their walk, they meet up with a few boys from the school and end up having a fun afternoon playing in the nearby water.  Shortly after they arrive home, their grandmother (Nihal Koldas) and uncle Erol (Ayberk Pekcan) hear other villagers speaking badly about the girls' scandalous afternoon.  To the typical person, the girls did nothing wrong, but in this particular Turkish community, tradition and values are highly regarded and this commingling with boys is unacceptable.  Uncle Erol and the girls' grandmother (who have watched after the five sisters since their mother and father died) decide to lock them in the house, not allowing them to leave for any reason (including to go to school) except to parade them around to the locals in hopes of marrying them off one by one.  Despite the girls' obvious dismay, the quintet slowly begin to be broken up, with girl after girl being forced into marriage against their will.  (Lest you forget, these are school age girls being bound into marriage.)

Although I've read a few commentaries that say Ergüven's film doesn't properly depict these more regimented Turkish societies, I'd venture to believe that there's some truth here.  The problem comes from the fact that Ergüven takes things a step further insinuating some malfeasance on the part of Uncle Erol that throws things for a loop for me.  In fact, the biggest issue I had with this important plot point is that it was so vaguely implied that I totally missed it until I was reading some info about the flick.  This major, though deceivingly inferred, topic threw me for a loop.  Granted, I may have turned my head from the screen once or twice during this subtitled flick, but I should have felt some impact.  Funnily enough, during one scene where Erol's said misdeeds are hinted at, I caught the hint, but then said to myself, "There's no way that could be, because this whole film hasn't even discussed this concept."  Granted, I understand that I'm being vague and circuitous here attempting to avoid spoiling a major plot point, but believe me when I tell you this intrigue either needed to be explored more or eliminated.

All this being said, Mustang gets some fine performances from its young cast and it's certainly watchable.  It presents a culture with which I was unfamiliar, but I think in more experienced hands it would've been a better film.

The RyMickey Rating:  C+

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