Mustang is as much an idyllic portrayal of sisterhood as it is a piece of incisive social commentary.
The Turkish-French co-production centres on the lives of Lale, Nur, Selma, Ecce and Sonay, five sisters who decide to celebrate the end of their school year by taking a dip in the ocean. Two of their male school friends accompany them, and the group innocently play-fight in the water, all the while still fully clad in their school uniforms.
After a conservative neighbour reports their behaviour back to their grandmother (Nihal G. Koldas), she and their quick-to-anger uncle Erol (Ayberk Pekcan) decide to lock the girls inside the family home for the duration of the summer. Plans are then made to marry off every sister bar the youngest, Lale. However, the girls find ways to physically escape their confines, and they transcend the situation through their imagination and sense of humour.
If Mustang makes anything clear it is this: women are strong as hell. The mustang, a small but wild horse, is a good animal mascot for the young women in this film. These girls may be small, but they are not going to let their spirits be broken at the prospect of spending their lives in domestic servitude.
While this is an ensemble production the star of the film is really Lale, played with aplomb by newcomer Günes Sensoy. She is a precocious, boisterous young soccer enthusiast who takes advantage of her small size to find ingenious new escape routes away from the house.
There are certain superficial similarities between Mustang and Sofia Coppola’s 1999 film, The Virgin Suicides. Dreamy sun-dappled shots abound, and both films deal with groups of Rapunzel-haired teenaged sisters who are put under lock and key by their conservative families. But the similarities end about there. Lale, Nur, Selma, Ecce and Sonay possess real personal agency: they are rowdy and well-drawn, and make a concerted effort to fight against their circumstances.
Mustang is a film that will have you watching alternately with bated breath, a goofy grin or (perhaps like emotional old me) with tears brimming in your eyes.
Mustang will be screening at Palace Nova Eastend from June 23rd. Check their website for session times.