This Turkish film received quite a buzz last year at various awards shows, I remember. On watching it I was impressed but also, a tiny bit underwhelmed.
As the title suggests, it's a look at how cultural mores and strict observances regarding female chastity and girls' independence essentially wring the life out of spirited young things (mustangs) in a village in Turkey. There are five orphaned sisters (inspired by The Virgin Suicides, the director states) living under the iron fists of Grandma and an uncle. But while the American sisters of that film seemed to have offed themselves for no particular reason as far as I could tell, the Turkish ones here have a lot to struggle against.
Sadly, the route to 'fixing' a girl's show of independence or heaven forbid, flirtation or attraction to boys, is an arranged marriage. Sad and familiar because it rings true for much of India as well, except that I fear most Indian girls would not even reach the level of frolicking that got these girls in trouble in the first place. Young, beautiful and wanting to explore their own femininity and character, the Mustang sisters are harshly curtailed and in fact, imprisoned within their home.
Arranged marriages do take place for the two oldest. Finally, it is the youngest who turns out to be the most formidable, and takes the story forward to its conclusion. Although the conclusion itself left the story open for a continuation in any direction.
I felt that we did not get to 'know' any of the girls, really. The youngest was no doubt the most engaging but the others were sort of skimmed over, even while their camaraderie was seamless and endearing. There were moments of genuine joy and real terror, and the seemingly-tyrannical elder ladies were not painted in a uniformly bad shade. The uncle turned out to be a nasty customer, but this aspect seemed a bit hasty and under-developed.
All in all, it's quite a tender look at the rarely-addressed subject of girlhood. Or maybe it's just me with my limited knowledge, but boyhood movies seem aplenty. Girlhood seems altogether too uncharted, too complicated (messy?) and finally, mysterious in terms of the cinematic lens. Mustang is a well-executed effort, if a little short of eloquent.
Director: Denize Erguven
Overall rating: 6.5/10