6 April 2019 | paul-allaer
"I'm not good with people" - Matthias Schoenaerts shines!
"The Mustang" (2019 co-production from the US, France, and Belgium; 96 min.) brings the story of Roman. At the movie's beginning, we are informed that over 100,000 wild mustangs roam in the US, from which several hundreds are taken to prisons each year for training by inmates. The opening scenes bring us one of those round-ups, as a chopper is directing a herd of mustangs towards captivity. We are introduced to Roman, locked up (for what crime?) in a maximum security prison in Nevada. "I'm not good with people", he tells the reclassification officer, so she puts him in the outdoor maintenance program. Initially it's just cleaning up horse manure, but eventually he gets to work with one of the mustangs. In a parallel story, Roman is visited by his highly pregnant daughter, and their meeting is - strained... At this point we're 10 min. into the movie but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the feature length directing debut of Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre (better known for her acting career in France), and what a debut it is! She also co-wrote the script. She brings a multi-faceted story: yes, there is the redemption side where a hardened criminal finds new hope when bonding with a mustang, but there is also the complicated father-daughter angle (which surprised me on several occasions as that played out), and of course there is the aspect of life in prison. Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts was made to play the role of Roman: a very physical yet nuanced performance (in the same way that it reminded me of Marlon Brando--but I'm not saying that Schoenaerts is in the league of Brando!). Bruce Dern has a small role as the heard of the mustang training program. The photography is eye-candy from start to finish. And then there are the mustangs, themselves a character in the movie. In the end, the biggest treasure that was uncovered in this film may well be Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre. I can't wait to see what she will do next. (Please note that Robert Redford is credited as Executive Producer.)
"The Mustang" premiered to immediate acclaim at this year's Sundance film festival, It is not a coincidence that this movie is currently certified 95% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. "The Mustang" recently opened at my art-house movie theater here in Cincinnati. The Friday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended poorly (5 people to be exact, myself included). That is a shame. Maybe the movie will find a wider audience as it is released in different formats. If you are up for a top-quality movie with a dazzling performance from Matthias Schoenaerts, I'd readily suggest you check this out, be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.