Saddle up for powerful performances, a convict’s redemption, and one angry horse
Last year, I was given two magnificent films about people and their horses. “The Rider” was about a rodeo star, who must chose between life and death, as his next injury could be fatal. And “Lean on Pete” was about an orphaned kid, who embarks on a cross country journey with his horse companion to find the only family member he has left. Both of them were mesmerizing.
This year, so far, I was given “The Mustang,” which is not only a horse drama, but also a prison drama, and both these types of genres are electrifying. The film opens with the fact that the Wild Mustang population is decreasing, because of limited resources, and overpopulation. And select prisons have convicts training some horses to be sold at auction. It goes with the second fact.
That’s where Matthias Shoenaerts comes in. He plays Roman Coleman, a violent convict, who’ s given a chance at redemption. His psychologist (Connie Britton) assigns him a position in the program, shoveling horse manure in the prison stables; and on duty, he discovers a mustang who is just as angry as he is.
The rehabilitation program is run by a veteran trainer named Myles (Bruce Dern), and it also features another convict named Henry (Jason Mitchell). Both of them tell Roman to be careful with how he handles the horse. Like all animal training pictures, he has trouble dealing with him at first, but ends up bonding with him. And he names him Marquis (Marcus) after a horse trainer he reads in a magazine.
Meanwhile, Roman’s estranged pregnant daughter Martha (Gideon Adlon) come to visit him in prison. She makes him sign some papers to have custody of his mother’s (her grandmother’s) house, much to his chagrin, and he wishes he could take back to what he did to his family.
“The Mustang” is a movie about two species who have something in common: they struggle to regain their senses. Shoenaerts delivers one of his most memorable performances as Roman, in the ways he eases his emotions, and discovers the human part of his species. And the horse gets easily freighted by helicopters, and yet, nobody even notices that it’s his trigger. This movie is about redemption, and given their strengths and weaknesses, we really feel their characters’ pain. Horses have feelings, too, bear in mind.
The movie is also beautifully photographed and edited. Writer/director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre gives the film an aspect ratio of 1:66:1, and Ruben Impens provides the cinematography. Ergo, it’s given a sentimental and gripping look. And Clermont-Tonnerre guides Shoenaerts on the right path. Not just him, but she also writes Mitchell, Dern, and Adlon with tone and characterization.
I was interested in the whole story of the main character’s conviction, maybe a flashback or a clearer understanding, but I got the concept. The important thing is his relationship with the horse and his chance at redemption. This is a movie for animal lovers, who don’t normally see this kind of relationship behind bars.