Mustang is a movie set in a middle-class town in the Turkey countryside, centered around five teenaged sisters and what becomes their claustrophobic, nightmarish home situation. In the beginning the sisters were all normal girls. They were a little raucous and mischevous, like some girls that age are. They went to school, they played around, and they were interested in what girls that age are mostly interested in: looks, clothes, having fun.
But everything changed when the girls are caught playing around on the beach with some boys on the last day of school. It was all pretty innocent play. A westerner, for example, would make nothing of what happened. But to the extremely conservative Turkish society, what they did represented a threat to their integrity as women and affected their chances to get married.
Their grandmother, who lives with them after the death of their parents, gets paranoid, and their uncle, who is not a good man, decides to take strict measures to safeguard the virginity and purity of his nieces. So they start marrying them off one by one, starting with the two eldest, who are only 16 and 15, respectively.
It’s a horrid situation when viewed from a modern perspective. Especially because it seems none of them are lucky in their unions, except the eldest one who married the boy she liked. But things got even worse as the home environment becomes more and more oppresive. When summer ends, the girls are not sent back to school. The grandmother’s aim is to marry them off as quickly as possible, and school serves no function in this plan.
Basically it’s like the family decided to retrograde into the middle ages. This part of the movie really shows how an ultra conservative mentality in these countries harms the education and upbringing of the woman, all to keep her subdued and chained to a patriarchal system which ends up hurting women more than helping them. What happens to some of these sisters is truly horrifying.
Without giving too much away, I’ll only say that it seems like having teenage girls with blossoming womanly bodies at home all day does not give the girl’s uncle any good ideas. And so as the two eldest sisters are married off, and the middle one’s life ends in tragic circumstances, the two youngest ones, especially Lale, the little one whom the movie is centered around, are forced to fight not only for their freedom, but also for their decency and life.
And this really is what shines throughout the movie. The Spirit of Lale, the little girl, who out of all her sisters refused to give up or become a victim of her circumstances. Because of her resourcefulness and smarts, she manages to escape the worst. The movie has a great ending. It cannot be called a happy ending, not after everything the girls went through, but it was an ending filled with relief for the two youngest sisters, who managed to escape their dire family life.
I greatly recommend this movie to anyone who likes / is interested in / is not bothered by foreign films and having to read subtitles, and who is willing to wrap their heads around the different realities of peoples around the world, specifically Turkey in this case.