Sundance 2019: Animals and Humans Share Spiritual Journey in The Mustang
Opening montage of serene beauty associated with horses is calming until a frenetic band of violins hovers while dozens of Mustangs run across the plains from helicopters hovering. One would get the sense you are about to watch a film about horses and possibly the mistreatment of them as they are captured. Quite the contrary.
Let me introduce you to the Wild Horse inmate program.Through this training program, about 60-75 wild horses are gentled and trained (for approximately 120 days) at prison facilities before being adopted each year. This program is used in prisons across the country to train the horses, but the inmates learn a thing or two as well.
Director and former Sundance Fellow Laure de Clermont Tonnerre directs the charmingly heartbreaking story of Roman (Matthias Schoenaerts), a convicted felon in rural Nevada, who participates in the Wild Horse Inmate Program along with the assistance of fellow inmate Henry (Jason Mitchell) and an old trainer Myles (Bruce Dern), Roman soothes the roughest horse in the bunch while confronting his own violent past. In the end, the horse and the man learn to tame the inner demons that consume them both.
There are numerous scenes and moments that are permanently seared in my brain, But the two that sit with me even now is the scene with Roman and his daughter as she reveals that after several letters to the parole board she realized her Dad prefers to stay incarcerated. And of course, the moment at the end of the film when Roman does the most unselfish act ever by setting his horse free. That scene right there had me in the ugly cry for a minute.
Matthias Schoenaerts as Roman is absolutely breathtaking and knows how to grab and keep you for every single moment he inhabits the screen. The same could be said for Oscar nominated Bruce Dern (Myles). But, I loved that Laure cast Jason Mitchell in the film as Henry. He brings a playfulness mixed with a tough exterior that is needed to balance out Roman and Miles. Produced by Robert Redford and Focus Features The Mustang hits theaters March 2019.
To learn more about Return to Freedom, a national wild horse conservation organization, or about America’s wild horses and how you can get involved in the effort to protect them, visit https://www.returntofreedom.org.
INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR LAURE de CLERMONT TONNERRE