Stirring coming-of-age drama from Turkey centred around five teen sisters fighting against their draconian guardians

Film Review by Michelle Devereaux | 26 Feb 2016
Film title: Mustang
Director: Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Starring: Güneş Nezihe Şensoy, Doğa Zeynep Doğuşlu, Elit İşcan, Tuğba Sunguroğlu, İlayda Akdoğan, Nihal Koldaş, Ayberk Pekcan
Release date: 13 May
Certificate: 15

There’s a brief image in Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s startlingly self-assured debut feature that could have been plucked directly from Sofia Coppola’s own auspicious debut, 1999’s The Virgin Suicides: five sisters, abruptly shut off from the outside world due to overbearing guardians, luxuriate on the floor of their bedroom, draped across one another as if posing for a pre-Raphaelite portrait. Unlike Coppola’s languorous, downbeat film, however, there is little resignation to be found; the girls brim with youthful verve and joyful defiance, and Mustang is a wilful act of political aggression as much as a study of female subordination.

Set in a gorgeous Turkish landscape by the Black Sea, Mustang follows the girls through their imprisonment, training for wifely duties (including “virginity checks”), and their subsequent marrying off to unknown men one by one. Through it all, their spirits remain largely unbroken (aside from an abrupt, somewhat ill-advised plot twist).

The Ankara-born, France-raised Ergüven plants anti-Turkish government Easter eggs throughout the film, but it’s also a raised middle finger to conservative ideas of female propriety in a more universal sense. The girls eventually manage to turn the very system of oppression against itself, striking a note of fantasy wish-fulfilment that feels as earned as it does invigorating. 

Mustang screens in Glasgow Film Festival:  27, GFT, 8.30pm | 28, GFT, 11am

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