Mustang | Film review - Wild hearts run free in Deniz Gamze Ergüven's stirring debut

Mustang directed by Deniz Gamze Erguven

Mustang - Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s portrait of five orphaned sisters growing up in rural Turkey is beautiful and stirring. Film review by Jason Best.

Mustang directed by Deniz Gamze Erguven

Five high-spirited young sisters living in rural Turkey rebel against their narrow-minded community with fateful consequences in the beautiful and stirring Mustang, the Oscar-nominated debut (opens in new tab) of Turkish-French director Deniz Gamze Ergüven.

A rousing mix of bittersweet fable and prison-break movie (Ergüven invokes Escape from Alcatraz as an inspiration), Mustang sees the orphaned girls shut up in their home by their grandmother and uncle after their innocent horseplay with some local boys on the last day of school creates a scandal. Bars go up on the windows and the fortified family house is turned into ‘a wife factory’ as the sisters’ guardians take steps to avert further shame by marrying them off one by one.

Ergüven vividly exposes the cruel folly of a society that wishes to tame and repress young women, but the abiding impression her film leaves is of the girls’ infectious zest for life, embodied above all by the youngest of the sisters, buoyant, mutinous Lale (Günes Nezihe Sensoy), with her love of football and unquenchable dreams of escape.


Certificate 15. Runtime mins. Director Deniz Gamze Ergüven

Mustang is available on Blu-ray & DVD, courtesy of Curzon Artificial Eye.


  • Trailer
  • Director's Fortnight Interview with Deniz Gamze Ergüven
  • Short film Bir Damla Su (A Drop of Water)


Jason Best

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.