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Mustang, The


Stars: Matthias Schoenaerts, Jason Mitchell, Bruce Dern, Gideon Adlon, Connie Britton

Director: Laure De Clermont-Tonnerre

Seeking to distance himself from his vicious past while serving an 11-year sentence for domestic violence, Nevada prison inmate Schoenaerts ('I'm not good with people') enters a rehabilitation programme where he has to train a wild horse in preparation for the animal's sale at an official auction.

And, as expected, equine association restores Schoenaerts' basic humanity...

While there's something Disneyesque about writer-director de Clermont-Tonnerre's basic narrative (co-scripted with Mona Fastvold and Brock Norman Brock), fortunately she avoids injecting sugar-soaked sentiment to deliver a well-told story whose factual basis - the Bureau of Land Management's Wild Horse Inmate Programme - gives a potentially mawkish narrative surprisingly effective reality.

Schoenaerts' credible characterisation is a considerable asset, as is Dern's engaging performance as a raspy-voiced veteran horse trainer.

Actress-turned-director de Clermont-Tonnerre, who explored a similar (smaller-scale) theme with her 2014 short film Rabbit, about a female prisoner entrusted with looking after the eponymous creature via the Pet Partnership Programme, skilfully segues from short to feature, making effective use of location work at the Nevada State Prion in Carson City, Nevada.

(Fortuitously for a film that isn't star-driven and is all the better for it, producer Robert Redford never appears in front of the cameras).

Alan Frank

France/Belgium 2019. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour.
97 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 2, Swearing 2.

Review date: 02 Sep 2019