Mustang ★★★★

Undeniably amongst the most powerful & provocative narratives to surface on the silver screen in recent years, Mustang is a beautifully balanced blend of skilful 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 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 and also exhibit welcome 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 scene plays a vital role in the narrative.

Coming to the performances, Mustang features a relatively inexperienced cast but the contribution from the five girls who play the siblings is a highlight in itself. The scripted characters do have enough flesh on them, thus providing a solid platform for the actors to built their act upon and 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 drama 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 and 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!

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