Bars on your home's windows are usually to keep the baddies on the outside, but in Mustang they come to signify the prison that Grandma's house becomes for the five spirited girls who are facing the special dangers of adolescence in a conservative village.
Deniz Gamze Ergüven's film - honored at Cannes - begins and ends with Lale, the youngest of the girls but the one you want on your team if ever you have to survive impossible odds. Young Günes Sensoy, playing Lale, sees trouble brewing, and lays plans. Her first film, and what an acting revelation.
Her older sisters, one by one, risk succumbing to the constant pressure to be married off, arranged by Grandma, who mostly just wants to avoid embarrassment in front of judgmental neighbors, and by uncle Erol, a supposed prude with a violent streak.
Director Ergüven (French director Alice Winocour co-wrote the screenplay), whose diplomatic childhood spanned life in Paris and in Ankara, has deftly inserted scenes which illustrate the lot of many a marriageable girl in Turkey: virginity tests, arranged pairings concluded by the families, frustration assuaged by eating too many Turkish delights or swigging the dregs of raki at big sister's wedding reception.
But this is not a documentary, credible and realistic as it is. From the outset, you care deeply about these girls and are with them as they try to enjoy innocent childhood pursuits or the normal joys and challenges of growing up. A beautiful, moving film.
Deniz Gamze Ergüven is interviewed here on France Culture (44 minutes, in French).