Sunday, February 28, 2016

OVP: Mustang (2015)

Film: Mustang (2015)
Stars: Gunes Sensoy, Doga Doguslu, Elit Iscan, Tugba Sunguroglu, Ilayda Akdogan, Nihal Koldas, Ayberk Pekcan, Erol Afsin
Director: Deniz Gamze Erguven
Oscar History: 1 nomination (Best Foreign Language Film-France)
Snap Judgment Ranking: 4/5 stars

I have been goaling myself to get every single Oscar-nominated film from 2015, at least the ones that I've seen, reviewed before the ceremony this evening and I am officially going to be done with that achievement with this review.  While I do have a few more films that were nominated in 2015 to go (A War, When Marnie Was There, and most-notably Straight Outta Compton should all be coming later this week, screening-permitting), this is as of this writing the last one that is nominated that I did indeed see prior to the ceremony so let's dive in, shall we?  After all, it's France's first nomination in a category that it has owned for decades since A Prophet, so the people of that great nation have waited long enough! :)

(Spoilers Ahead) The film is about five sisters who are brought up in a conservative Turkish household by their uncle and grandmother.  They are forced, after an incident where they are caught playing with boys, to abandon school and devote themselves to becoming ready for marriage.  One by one, the girls start to be bartered off to various families, breaking apart their strong bond and with only one exception, seeing themselves become increasingly unhappy.  We learn as the film progresses that their value in the eyes of their suitors and of their uncle, whom we discover is molesting two of the girls, is only ornamental and the youngest, Lale (Sensoy) is desperate to get out, eventually hatching a plan to free she and her sister Nur after the middle daughter, one of the girls being molested, kills herself rather than being married off or continuing her stifled existence.

The film ends on about as happy of a note as such a film can, with Nur and Lale fleeing to Istanbul to find their teacher, all the while likely never seeing their own family again.  The movie is a quiet revelation, in my opinion, and has a weirdly wonderful energy for most of it even if it is indeed a terrifying, almost horror film.  The sisters are genuinely connected, and the five main actresses deserved some sort of joint recognition in my opinion for creating a dynamic where they felt connected but not interchangeable (this is rare in a movie, where you usually have to rely upon "the smart one," "the dumb one," "the childish one" and other tropes to distinguish different siblings as if such divergences ever occur in real life.

The film is also gripping in the way that it's difficult to tell the direction of the movie.  Erguven frames the film in such a way that we get to feel the continued claustrophobia of the girls' lives, and the way that a simple act of bravery (talking to a boy, taking a lover, sneaking to a soccer match) feels like a life-or-death situation, perhaps because it is.  In the final moments of the film, I was genuinely on the edge-of-my-seat, begging the writers to give Nur and Lale a reprieve from this prison, hoping that by some miracle they would escape where their sisters and countless women before them would not.  It's an excellent piece of work from a director creating her first feature length movie, and has me ecstatic to see what she creates next.

Those are my thoughts on Mustang, a film I enjoyed far more than I expected based on trailers and one I highly recommend.  If you've seen it, what are your thoughts?  Do you think it will take the trophy tonight?  Are you hoping it will?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

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