Big Screen: Mustang

July 11th 2016


After an incredibly successful showing at the Sydney Film Festival, Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s debut film Mustang has come to Australian screens. It’s a beautifully affecting story, that leaves you sitting quietly in the cinema after the credits roll.

Set in a small Turkish town, the movie follows five precocious sisters who are confined in their own home after their reputations have been besmirched by a prudish neighbour. Their parents have passed away so it falls on their Grandmother and Uncle to ensure that the girls are raised properly, which, to the reactionary relatives, means pulling the sisters out of school and putting bars on the windows.

It’s a coming of age film that grapples with the complexities of growing up in a culture that has rigidly clear ideas of how young girls should develop and behave. By focusing on this headstrong group of sisters, Erguven has presented a really interesting case study on the different ways people deal in oppressive environments.


It’s all seen through the lens of the youngest sister, Lale, who is Lady Mormont levels of badass. In many ways, she’s the leader of the group, and her resilience and allegiance to her sisters gives the film its audacious voice. She follows a long line of child actors whose characters are unable to understand the reasons for injustice, but are acutely conscious of them all the same. Because of this, there is a fascinating softness to the film. The harshness of the adults’ world is broken up by the world that the girls have created for themselves: one that is bound by loyalty and sisterly love. It is immaculately conceived; tied together with a tender soundtrack composed by Warren Ellis of the Dirty Three, and cinematography that emphasises the whole casts’ humanity.

Mustang isn’t simply a film about female emancipation, it’s a testament to the strength of the human spirit and our ability to find comfort in others. Lale might be a prisoner in her own home, but it’s still her home, and the value of that is abundantly clear as she lies with her sisters in their sun-lit room. Their bond is what makes the movie, and while the sanctity of that room might not last forever, the relationships that they form there will live on.

Give your loved ones a call and watch this film together.


Read more from James Ross

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