In the opening scene of Deniz Erguven's devastatingly real tinderbox of female-emotion-drama, the older three of five sisters are waiting outside the school for young Lala (Gunes Sensoy) as she says her goodbye to a teacher. The three stand, half full of swagger and attitude, knowing that their budding sexuality and natural beauty are but moments away from blooming when they meet their boyfriends by the ocean. It's as if they're poised to star in an 80's teen drama and they're most certainly Kim Richards or Lea Thompson... i.e. the bad girls. But it's exactly this risque attitude that lands all five sisters in trouble when they get home, subsequently beaten and verbally abused for being such loose women and flirting openly with men. "Mustang" doesn't reside in John Hughes middle America, but the restrictive culture of Turkey. Gradually, their freedom (both of personal expression and choice) are eroded as they're locked inside their home and kept prisoners by grandmother and uncle until, slowly, each one is given away to womanhood and arranged marriages. "Mustang", the debut feature film by Erguven, works methodically and brilliantly, canvasing the girl's suffocation in gentle overtones. There are night time escapes to freedom. Outward displays of retaliation. And of course tragedy. Even though it's a Turkish film, "Mustang" is universal in its depiction of smothered youth via overwrought and antiquated traditions. By the time it ended, not only was I reduced to tears for these girls to make it out alive, but ultimately resentful of so many nationalities whose backwards belief system chokes the life from sparkling eyes.
Working in understated tones that bristle to the surface quietly, Andrew Haigh's "45 Years" casts the rare glimpse into a married couple's life not in the awkward, rough beginning or tumultuous settling years, but in the comfortable afterglow of old age. As the couple in examination, Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay inhabit their roles like the seasoned vets they are. It's only after the consequences of an event far back in the past (before they even knew each other) that ruptures their English countryside melancholy and turns up the psychological dial where sorrow, distrust and ambiguity seep in. This is a film of muted emotions and carefully comprised glances where even the subtle breaking apart of hands feels like a seismic reaction.
Loosely boiling ideas from many of their more successful flicks (i.e. the mordant introspection of "A Serious Man", the kooky crime generics of "The Big Lebowski" and "Fargo" or the compressed isolation of manhood in "The Man Who Wasn't There"), the Coen Brothers don't exactly strike gold with their latest. Weaving an actor-gone-missing subplot around the stressful job of running the day-to-day theatrics of a Hollywood film studio in the 50's, "Hail, Caesar" seems to be having the most fun when its recreating the films of old- from a musical number full of dancing sailors (including Channing Tatum) to the black and white melodrama with an actor who seems righteously out of place. When its not lost in these Hollywood daydreams, "Hail, Casear" sputters for tepid stretches, including anything featuring Josh Brolin as the tense-riddled producer. The lacerating wit typically found in the Coen Brothers works is surprisingly absent, save for a few moments with George Clooney and the self-titled religious epic the film takes its meta name from. This may be minor Coen Brothers- which is typically better than most other efforts out there- but it left me oddly unfazed and quite bored.