In my early teens, I was a budding short story writer. I wrote introspective little pieces on self-involved young men, stories about overthinking things that borrowed liberally from Stephen King. One story was about a young boy trapped in a closet by his overbearing older brother (the idiomatic allegory was entirely inadvertent), which included a description of the closet’s interior that ended with the thin ray of light shining through the bottom of the door. I recall a writing mentor – an older student – advising me to restructure my paragraph to bring the light forward; to emphasise the darkness.
Mustang takes the opposite approach. It’s a simple story, of confinement and sexism and fear of female sexuality. But as Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s young women are sequestered and married off by their adopted uncle, the focus isn’t on the walls closing in but the light coming through. There are moments of light, and humour, and hope. That’s especially embodied by the exuberant performance from pre-teen Günes Sensoy as the younger of five sisters. The girls are confined, but this is a story of their resistance – as in an exhilarating escape to a soccer match – as much as a story of their imprisonment.