Mustang ★★★★½

Went into this knowing absolutely nothing, walked out totally overwhelmed.

Looking at this poster, you might reasonably come to one of two conclusions: note the cast and assume it's a charming portrait of sisterhood, or note their stares and assume it's a gut-wrenching drama. What's remarkable about Mustang is how perfectly it does both, and how much more it finds room to do on the side. Tonally it has shades of Sofia Coppola, but in scope it's more like a Turkish Persepolis: a keenly observed coming of age story, an intimate glimpse of an underseen culture, a damning finger at the oppression polluting said culture, a cry for help and a shout of resilience in the same breath.

There is so much heart in this movie. Not only for the kids caught in oppression, but for the adults who perpetuate the cycle: the protective instinct behind grandmom's stern convictions, the tiny act of kindness by a mortified aunt. Even the weightiest symbols (the wall, the gun, a meticulously folded sheet), when not devastating us, have the power to make us smile. Mustang strikes that impossible balance which could only be earned from personal experience: to simultaneously mock, mourn, and miss the same thing. Damning outrage at what it did, smiling familiarity with the particular way it did it, nostalgia for how it was yours to feel.

There's also intense heartache and a timely social message. All of it worked for me. Art, at its best, helps you see the world from a different perspective, and I'm thankful Deniz Ergüven shared hers with us.

(P.S Maybe it's just because I've recently visited both places alone, but that final few minutes did for Istanbul what Lost In Translation's did so well for Tokyo. Something about the thrill of loneliness, or the liberation of being lost.)

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