Mustang (2015), directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven
The film takes its title from the name of wild, free-roaming horses that are an apt symbol for the strong, stubborn spirit of the group of five young sisters who are taught and ultimately forced to conform to the conservative cultural norms of their remote coastal Turkish village. The film manages to capture a special aura of innocence with an underlying layer of uneasiness around the seemingly impenetrable bond that the sisters share with each other, evoking the enigmatic atmosphere of Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides (1999). The film gradually increases the sense of urgency as the story progresses from a familiar teenage coming-of-age tale to a fascinating exploration of the conflict between these modern, free-spirited girls and the old-fashioned traditional role of women that is forced upon them and suppresses their personal identities. We see the lengths to which the adults will go to shield them from the outer world, denying simple pleasures and, in fact, imprisoning them in the house.
Despite the grim subject matter, Mustang is a believable, sensitive and moving portrait of growing up in a specific part of the world by effectively balancing the sequences of innocent, child-like play with sequences showing their continuous rebellion against oppression.
Carol (2015), directed by Todd Haynes
Carol is a stunning period drama with close attention to detail that looks at a blossoming relationship between a young, shy photographer and a charismatic older woman in conservative 1950s America. In line with the sentiment of the time towards LGBT relationships, no direct label is ascribed to their relationship. The director has framed the shots to visually communicate the complex sentiments of the characters through subtle looks and subliminal messages that manage to speak louder than words. The film creates a clever juxtaposition between Carol’s polished style and glamorous lifestyle and her inner struggles. Both Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara are excellent at portraying the unspoken emotional struggles of the characters and the intense but outwardly reserved love that they feel for each other. These characters have to play a certain role every day to conform to society’s expectations, supported by the way that the film portrays their road trip, that has an almost dreamlike quality, where the characters are portrayed as more outwardly affectionate, which gives the audience a glimpse into their true selves.
Overall, an important and hopeful exploration of a lesbian relationship amidst the prejudices of 1950s America that remains true to the spirit of the source material and adds new subtle elements through the power of visual storytelling.
The End of The Tour (2015), directed by James Ponsoldt
A compassionate, heavily dialogue-based exploration of the five-day long interview between Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) and David Foster Wallace (Jason Segal) after the 1996 publication of his novel Infinite Jest. Their conversations about writing, television, relationships, fame, authenticity and depression effectively reveal their individual personalities, the identities they want to present to the world as well as the secrets that they try to keep under the surface. It is not a biopic since it equally focuses on Lipsky’s unrealized ambitions for the same success and critical recognition that his subject has achieved. The director focuses on moments that reveal Lipsky’s inner conflict between his genuine admiration for Wallace and his work assignment for Rolling Stone magazine that requires him to push Wallace into answering uncomfortable questions. This conflict is visually represented by the sequences that acknowledge Lipsky’s tape recorder that creates a constant palpable barrier between the interviewer and his subject.
The End of the Tour is a moving and empathetic study of two creative personalities, who, despite their different personalities and professional obligations, develop a brief bond through meaningful, self-reflective conversations on life and the craft of writing.