2019 | Drama | In English | 96 minutes
Roman Coleman has been in prison for 12 years. He was convicted for attacking his partner and leaving him brain damaged. Roman also has a violent temper and a bad attitude. To rehabilitate him, he is assigned to a program run by Myles, a rancher, who trains wild mustangs. Roman is given the job to train a specific mustang and he’s given five weeks to do so. Roman struggles, but he’s helped by Henry, a fellow inmate in this same program and with a bit more experience. Roman becomes close to thehorse even naming him Marquis. Soon it’s time to sell Marquis at auction. Roman invites Martha, his pregnant daughter, to witness the event hoping it will improve their relationship. A helicopter flies over spooking Marquis. Roman is thrown and nearly trampled. Myles informs Roman that Marquis is untrainable and will be euthanized. Roman finds a way to help Marquis escape and sets him free. Some time later Martha sends Roman a letter with a picture of his newborn grandson. While reading the letter, Roman spots Marquis at the prison gates. The mustang has returned to his friend.
Why Screen This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus) 94% 94%
- Metacritic Score 77% 77%
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In dealing with Marquis, Roman must show caution not fear. Schoenaerts, a Flemish actor, walks that emotional tightrope with consummate skill. His American accent is flawless and his performance, taking Roman from sullen guarded anger to remorse and a kind of healed self-worth, is the strength of the picture.
French director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre goes all in, embracing simplicity and sincerity without hesitation or self-consciousness. THE MUSTANG is direct and almost perilously familiar—it draws from both westerns and prison movies—yet it is also attractively filigreed with surprising faces, unusual genre notes and luminous, evanescent beauty.
THE MUSTANG is anchored and energized by the knockout work of Flemish actor Matthias Schoenaerts. A combination of strange, dark moments with unapologetic sentimental ones, this film is impossible to imagine without the actor’s startling work. You might see more polished films in 2019, but you will not see a better performance.
From a straightforward premise comes a film with few narrative fastballs but tremendous emotional impact. THE MUSTANG manages, against all odds, to elicit empathy for Coleman and others in his midst. A gripping, well-told story that persuasively ponders themes of redemption and love.
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