Usually I don’t trust Rotten Tomatoes ratings.
Rick Alverson’s Entertainment stands at 80%, and it’s the worst movie I’ve ever seen. But with Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s coming-of-age masterpiece, Mustang, its 97% rating is right on the money.
Set in a remote Turkish village, five beautiful orphaned sisters grow up under the tyrannical rule of their Grandmother, and their uncle, Erol. After small-town-rumour spreads of the girl’s promiscuous ways, Erol and his mother lock them away from society and anything that could ‘tempt’ them to lose their virginity, which would leave them unwed-able.
The girls form a bond firmer than the cement walls they are confined by, with Gunes Sensoy delivering a jaw dropping performance as the youngest sister, Lale. Lale is arguably the most defiant of the sisters, who is fearless in the face of her oppressors. The girls (who, incredible talent aside, are so piercingly beautiful it makes it hard at times to concentrate) are married off one by one under arranged circumstances, but when Lale realises she is next in line, she sets her heart and mind on escaping to Istanbul.
The desire for freedom and the intensity of youth is so contagious in this film, that when the girls sneak out to attend a professional soccer match in town, I felt the wind smacking my own cheeks and my hair blowing against my forehead as I watched them stick their heads out the bus window. It wasn’t until the scene ended that I realised the wind was the theatre’s Air Conditioning unit, and my hair was up in a ponytail. Seriously, it’s that convincing.
But beyond its immediate charm and lure, it’s a film that stays with you long after the credits roll. It opens your eyes and mind to other cultures and the hardships that many women in strict, conservative families and countries face. Regardless of your upbringing, everyone can take something from this movie. If you were raised in an authoritarian and hostile household, you will empathize with these girls and young women. If, like me, you were blessed with a compassionate family and happy childhood, Mustang will overwhelm you with gratitude. No matter what your background, though, this film reminds you of the power of freedom, and it’s immeasurable worth. That age old proverb about the wealthiest people being the rich at heart might be hard to grasp when you can’t pay the rent, but my god does it make sense when you see this film.
Mustang is out nationwide June 23.