The Mustang

mustangSTARS4There’s a poignant simplicity that elevates this tale of redemption.  Sometimes an uncomplicated, straightforward account about human change can profoundly move the heart.  The Mustang is just such a film.

Roman Coleman is a convict at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center who has trouble controlling his anger.  He’s currently serving a 12-year sentence for a shocking burst of domestic violence against his wife.  The result of which had tragic consequences.  He’s given a second chance at social rehabilitation when he’s admitted into the Wild Horse Inmate Program.  There he’s entrusted with the care of a crazed mustang that has been extremely difficult to restrain.  It’s not hard to see the spiritual connection drawn between man and beast.  His efforts to “break” the savage animal are the subject of powerful scenes with a visual grandeur sans dialogue.  Their relationship is merely composed of gestures and expressions.  It is here that Roman begins to come to terms with his own failings.

Matthias Schoenaerts is a star in the classic Hollywood tradition – a time when men conveyed forceful resolve simply through a strong, stoic silence.  They didn’t talk a lot. They didn’t have to.  They dominated without speaking.  These rugged individuals obviously had feelings but it was buried beneath a veneer of stoicism and it added to their mystique.  The less we knew, the more charismatic they became.  John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Steve McQueen – These durable icons were the definition of cool.  Matthias Schoenaerts has the physicality of a tough guy but that determination belies a deep unspoken sensitivity.  In films such as Bullhead, Rust and Bone and Far from the Madding Crowd, Matthias Schoenaerts has given one arresting performance after another.  The actor propels The Mustang into a fascinating character study.

There’s a poetic realism that underlies this depiction.  The Wild Horse Inmate Program detailed here is a real thing.  It provides an effective setting where violent criminals interact with barbaric creatures and the alliance can effectively tame them.  Ah, but who is pacifying who?  Part prison drama, part traditional western, director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre in her feature debut, deals with timeworn themes but reinterprets them in a way that feels fresh and invigorating.  Humans and animals often share an implicit bond.  Sometimes that association can be quite stirring.  De Clermont-Tonnerre explores that connection with unsentimental but deeply moving style.   The Mustang will speak to that spirit.  I was captivated by the portrait.

04-05-19

6 Responses to “The Mustang”

  1. S. A. Young Says:

    As a big Matthias Schoenaerts fan, I’d been looking forward to this one and then missed it in theaters. Your review has reminded me it’s still on my list! Happy to know it’s now streaming on Amazon. (And if you haven’t seen it, I can recommend another M.S. film, “A Little Chaos.”)

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  2. I agree, not much dialogue needed. It was an emotional connection that drew me to the situation. I got a little choked up at the end. Job well done. 4 stars

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  3. Just out of curiosity, how come your review has the date of April 5?

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    • The date under the review is the first time I saw the film. I watched The Mustang back in April. I did rewatch it again before writing my review. Incidentally, the date the review is posted is listed under the title.

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