List Film

Mustang (4 stars)

Award-winning Turkish drama from debut director Deniz Gamze Ergüven


Turkish-French filmmaker Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s impressive coming-of-age drama has a dreamy, meditative quality to it. But there’s no nostalgia in this story of five sisters, whose carefree attitude to life puts them in constant battle with their conservative elders.

Lale, Nur, Ece, Selma and Sonay (played by Güneş Nezihe Şensoy, Doğa Zeynep Doğuşlu, Elit İşcan, Tuğba Sunguroğlu and İlayda Akdoğan) are orphans, living with their grandmother (Nihal Koldaş) and uncle Erol (Ayberk Pekcan) in a small Turkish village, with neighbours spying on their every move. When Erol gets wind of a harmless splash-about in the sea with some local boys, he sets about marrying them off as soon as possible.

We see the drama unfold through the eyes of Lale, the youngest, who’s wonderfully portrayed by the mesmerising Şensoy. Horrified at the way her older sisters are paired up, she dreams of running away to Istanbul and constantly balks at the strict gender expectations imposed by her uncle. There’s a particularly lovely scene in which she escapes to a female-spectators-only football match; terrified her uncle will see her on TV, her aunt throws rocks at the village aerial so none of the local men can watch the game at all.

Mustang is a beautiful film, that’s by turns funny, distressing and redemptive. So it’s wonderful to see it have so much success in this past awards season, notching up Oscar and Golden Globe nods and four César wins (including Best First Feature Film and Best Original Screenplay).

It’s directed with such an assured and sophisticated hand that it’s easy to forget this is Ergüven’s debut. Co-written with Alice Winocour (director and co-writer of this year’s Disorder), it’s a haunting family drama in which every character is rendered with touching sensitivity. Even the conservative relatives against which Lale rails aren’t depicted wholly as villains, highlighting Ergüven’s keen awareness of the delicacy of family bonds. Add to that the stunning depiction of the hot, hazy Turkish climate and a brilliant soundtrack by frequent Nick Cave collaborator Warren Ellis, and you won’t be able to get this film out of your head for months.

Selected release from Fri 13 May


  • 4 stars
  • 2015
  • France/Germany/Turkey/Qatar
  • 15
  • Directed by: Deniz Gamze Ergüven
  • Cast: Günes Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu
  • UK release: 13 May 2016

Orphaned sisters Lale, Nur, Ece, Selma and Sonay live with their grandmother and uncle in a small Turkish village, when a harmless game with some local boys scandalises a neighbour. Funny, distressing and redemptive debut feature by Ergüven, in which even the conservative relatives are depicted with sensitivity; its Oscar…


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