Mustang | Pittsburgh City Paper


Turkish drama about five teenage sisters confined to their home exposes larger oppression

After school, five teenage sisters innocently goof around with some boys at the beach. But in their small, conservative Turkish village, this transgression earns them a staggering punishment: Their guardians — an uncle and a grandmother — lock them up in the house. For good — or at least until their arranged marriages “free” them.

This coming-of-age film is the first feature from actress-turned-director Deniz Gamze Ergüven. It’s a contemporary and feminist adaptation of the classic fairy tale in which a young princess is imprisoned in a high castle, and its sunny moodiness also recalls the similarly themed work The Virgin Suicides. It’s a pointed critique of a patriarchal culture that denies these young women agency, replete with “traditional” restrictions like wearing dowdy clothing and indignities such as virginity tests. 

It sounds like depressing subject matter, but the film, in spite of its serious themes, is surprisingly light and even joyful. The sisters are high-spirited and unbroken (like the titular wild horse). They often act as a group, and Ergüven films them in scenes of easy intimacy underscoring both their closeness and their shared ordeal. The film stumbles a bit in the final reel, where plot devices trump the looser narrative vibe. Your head may squawk a bit, but your heart will root for these free-spirited girls.