Coming to limited release from director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre and Focus Features comes a story of self-redemption with the help of THE MUSTANG.
Roman Coleman (Matthias Schoenaerts) has been in prison for twelve years. Mainly keeping to himself in solitary, his temper flares in a second bringing him even more problems. Transferred to a new prison, he refuses to help anyone understand how to get through, not even daughter Martha (Gideon Adlon).
Outside the prison walls are horse stalls and a man named Myles (Bruce Dern) who teaches inmates how to prepare horses for sale. These are mustangs captured by the government and land management and all sale proceeds go back to them. At first Roman has no interested until he hears continual banging from a stall away from the corals.
Then he comes face to face with a very angry mustang and Roman is captured in another way. Myles sees that there is something between the two and brings the convict into the prisons program. Put in the hands of inmate Elijah (Keith Johnson), Roman gets a lesson here and there about how to reach the untouchable horse.
Newly named Marcus, Roman works his new ward daily and something happens to them both. So much so that when daughter Martha comes to visit, Roman confesses what brought him to jail and hopes there can be something between father and daughter once again.
Roman has other worries as well when top inmate Dan (Josh Stewart) decides he wants something from his cell mate and is willing to hurt Martha to make that happen. Both Roman and Marcus become a mixture of emotions and just when they are in sync – one sudden jolt forces them both to come to terms with who they are and where they are meant to be.
It is all in how you define love and freedom!
Schoenaerts as Roman gives absolutely everything to this role. There is anger, confusion, heart, soul, rage, revenge, and confession – just a gambit of where he once was to where we meet him. Strong willed from the film’s beginning, Schoenaerts character is broken down slowly and surely by a beautiful animal that has so much in common with Roman. I could not take my eyes of this actor who portrays a man who slowly comes to terms with a mistake brought on by anger that just can’t seems to subside.
Dern as Myles is a horse trainer who sees something click between Roman and Marcus. He puts a skittish faith and sees it pay off daily. Even when the unthinkable happens, Dern is strong in character and lends it to Roman when he needs it the most. Dern has always been on my list of amazing actors and it is satisfying to see him continue to jump in and lasso a role that suits him.
Aldon as Martha has just as much anger as her father but she is less physical about it. Instead hiding it in the way she speaks as bits of anger seep out with anger at being left alone growing up. Johnson as Elijah is very happy working with horses and takes a keen interest in seeing that Roman succeeds. The problem is that is outside the prison, what happens inside is something else.
Other cast include Jason Mitchell as Henry, Thomas Smittle as Tom, Noel Gugliemi as Roberto, George Schroeder as Officer Peters and Connie Britton as the Psychologist.
THE MUSTANG has a storyline that tugs every fiber of a being. From the beginning of the film and the horses are captured, it plants the seed of emotion wondering why these beautiful creatures can’t just be left alone. In that instant, the film becomes personal to watch.
It is personal in regards to the horses and everything after that. There is a mental encouragement that happens as the film goes on – encouraging the horse to let go of its anger but not let go of its spirit and encouraging Roman to stop hiding from the world. The final encouragement is that they both realize they are cut from the same universal cloth.
There is also a constant shift in the film that takes the two steps forward and five steps back in both Roman and Marcus yet there is no way as the viewer to lose hope. Schoenaerts and the lovely mustang we know as Marcus invite us into a story that only the two of them can possibly tell.
The film is cinematically beautiful with the surrounding wilderness and plopped in its center is a brick building holding men. Between the wilderness and the prison is a place of hope that, at times, makes you forget about the other two worlds. Unfortunately, the other two worlds are very, very powerful.
In the end – they are both untamed souls and kindred spirits!