Earn Your freedom

The Mustang
Stars: Matthias Schoenaerts, Jason Mitchell, Gideon Adlon, Connie Britton and Bruce Dern
Director: Laure de Clermont-Tonnere
Scriptwriters: Laure de Clermont-Tonnere, Mona Fastvold and Brock Norman Brock
Composer: Jed Kurzel
Cinematographer: Ruben Impens
Canal+ Films/Focus Features
Rating: R for violence and language
Running Length: 96 Minutes 

Last year, I read the 2011 novel by David E. Hilton named “Kings of Colorado.” The story is set in the mid-1960’s when a teenage boy commits a serious crime, has no family, and is sent to a ranch in the high country of Colorado for rehabilitation.  There, he learns how to do ranch chores and work with wild horses to tame them for sale. The book is about his adventures with friends and horses, both good and bad.  It also has a side story about what happens after his release. 

When I saw that “The Mustang” was being filmed, I thought it was adapted from Hilton’s novel, but this is a different story, about adult prisoners and some of the problems encountered in these situations, such as having parental obligations on the outside, but you are in a prison in Nevada. Working with horses is meant to rehabilitate them and the prisoners.  There is a friendly senior trainer at the ranch (Bruce Dern) and a prison psychologist (Connie Britton from “Nashville.”) 

The main character is Roman (Matthias Schoenaerts from “Far From The Madding Crowd” ) who has been in a prison for years for an assault. He has what is termed a “short fuse” and is difficult to work with.  Eventually, comes a chance to work with wild horses in a rehab program organized by Myles (Bruce Dern). Roman doesn’t work well at first, but then becomes friendly with one horse, in particular, that he calls “Marcus.” Some people are better with animals than with people.  Roman’s prison friend is Henry (Jason Mitchell). Eventually, the horses are put up for auction and it is at this point that the unexpected happens What to do? Also, can Roman see his pregnant daughter, Martha (Gideon Adlon)? There is, also,a side story about drug smuggling. 

Ruben Impens’ camera captures the scenery of Nevada and the beauty of wild horses. There is a program like training wild horses by inmates under the Bureau of Land Management.  This is a film where much dialogue is not needed, the prisoners caring for the animals provides dialogue in itself.  Matthias Schoenaerts does well as Roman, whose very presence in a room would frighten most people. Bruce Dern has a friendlier role than usual and Connie Britton isn’t on screen that much. Gideon Adlon provides us with an outside view as the family member who has future responsibilities and is trying to make the best of it.  

“The Mustang” isn’t just for horse-loving people, even if you have ridden a horse only once in your life, you know the power and strength that is there, and the stubbornness and defiance that can be there, too.  Compassion is the key word for becoming friends and it works here, too.  With both species, one must work ahead on what to do in situations, such as impulse control--- and sometimes that is the difficult thing to do.   

Bring hankie to film. If you like to read books, the novel,  “Kings of Colorado,” will give you a perspective on a juvenile in this type of horse training program 40 years ago. 


Copyright 2019 Marie Asner