THE MUSTANG – Review by Susan Granger

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Without much publicity or fanfare, Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre has unbridled a most unusual animal-bonding story.

More than 100,000 wild mustangs still roam free in the United States. In order to regulate the horse population, the Bureau of Land Management captures several hundred. A few dozen are sent to prisons where they’re broken and trained by inmates, then sold at public auction, often to police departments for border patrol.

In rural Nevada, an inmate, Roman Coleman (Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts), incarcerated for domestic violence, has just been released from solitary confinement. When interviewed by the prison psychologist (Connie Britton), tight-lipped Coleman reluctantly admits, “I’m not good with people.”

So as part of his state-mandated social rehabilitation, he’s assigned to an “outdoor maintenance” program. Spotted by veteran trainer Myles (Bruce Dern), a crusty codger, Coleman is accepted into the selective wild horse training section.

That’s where he discovers a crazed, seemingly unbreakable stallion. Coleman immediately identifies with the horse’s ferocity and fury and begins to read equestrian magazines.

Left in the dusty ring with the mustang, Coleman takes more than a few tumbles as his frustration erupts into violence. Then another inmate, Henry (Jason Mitchell), an experienced rider tells him: “If you wanna control the horse, first you gotta control yourself.”

Which leads Coleman into an anger-management session in which the inmates confess that acting on impulse is what led to their imprisonment.

Meanwhile, Coleman’s pregnant daughter Martha (Gideon Adlon), from whom he’s been estranged for years, comes to visit, asking him to sign some legal papers. At first, he refuses even to talk with her until, gradually, they begin to communicate.

This is French filmmaker Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s feature film directorial debut. She developed the equine-therapy concept through Sundance Labs, and Robert Redford is credited as Executive Producer.

Trivia: In one scene, Coleman’s cellmate sarcastically calls him “John Wayne.” Bruce Dern murdered Wayne’s character in The Cowboys.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, The Mustang is a meditative, redemptive 8, an enticing tale.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.