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Roman Coleman, a convict in a rural Nevada prison who struggles to escape his violent past, is required to participate in an "outdoor maintenance" program as part of his state-mandated social rehabilitation. Spotted by a no-nonsense veteran trainer and helped by an outgoing fellow inmate and trick rider, Roman is accepted into the selective wild horse training section of the program. There, he rediscovers his own humanity in gentling an especially unbreakable mustang.
Roger EbertFull Review Very Good "The Mustang” becomes an emotional powerhouse in its final act, complete with the National Anthem and an unforgettable, heartbreaker of a parting note. A tender film about forgiveness and second chances...
Rolling StoneFull Review Very Good Each time you think you have this movie pegged, it'll knock you for a loop. You'll cry over his final scenes with the horse. But the tears here are honestly earned, and they sting like hell. Above all, The Mustang marks the birth of an exceptional new filmmaker, a woman hellbent on bucking Hollywood gender bias.
Slant MagazineFull Review Above Average The mustang-breaking regimen, built around patience, communication, and mutual understanding between horse and trainer, helps him to develop a semblance of control over his turbulent, cloistered mental life. As Henry plainly lays it out: "If you want to control your horse, first you gotta control yourself.”
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Roman Coleman (Matthias Schoenaerts) is halfway through serving an 11-year
sentence for domestic violence at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center, when
he is selected to participate in an "outdoor maintenance" program as part of his
state-mandated social rehabilitation. Soon, Roman is accepted into the selective
wild horse training section of the program and paired with a particularly
difficult buckskin who mirrors his symptoms of aggression, fear and anxiety.
As Roman struggles to come to terms with his newfound responsibilities, he's
also painfully reminded of his tragic past. His pregnant 16-year-old daughter
Martha (Gideon Adlon) visits to ask him to sign emancipation papers that will
allow her to inherit her grandmother's house. Father and child are long
estranged, and although Roman senses that Martha is headed down the wrong path,
he's ill-equipped to connect with her from behind bars.
Under the watchful eye of Myles (Bruce Dern), who simultaneously serves as
the program's horse trainer and a father figure to the inmates, Roman attempts
to train his horse to be sold at auction in 90 days. Although he's assisted by
Henry (Jason Mitchell),
an affable, experienced inmate trainer, progress doesn't come easy for Roman,
whose all-consuming anger makes it difficult for him to strike the right tone
while he's near the animals. But after an initial false start, Roman does begin
to develop a strong bond with the mustang, which he names Marquis.
The deep connection he forges with the wild horse allows him to open up and
face his inner demons. He's helped further by his ongoing work with a prison
psychologist (Connie Britton) and his participation in both anger management
classes and restorative justice sessions, which help convicts develop empathy
for the victims of their crimes. But his position in the program is jeopardized
as Roman's cellmate Dan (Josh Stewart) pressures Roman to start smuggling
ketamine from the farm. The horse tranquilizer is a highly-coveted commodity
among the inmates-Henry is forced to steal the substance for one of the gangs in
the prison; Dan wants Roman to do the same.