A troubled prisoner works at taming a wild horse.
“However many films you may have seen about the bond between humans and horses, here’s one that will move you anew,” said Joe Morgenstern in The Wall Street Journal. Set in a Nevada prison, it’s inspired by a government program that addresses an overpopulation of wild horses by enlisting prisoners to domesticate them. The surliest inmate, played “with startling ferocity” by Flemish actor Matthias Schoenaerts, is paired with the wildest mustang. And though we can predict where this is headed, “the surprises are many.” The first encounter between man and horse “verges on a romantic meet-cute that strains narrative credulity,” said Manohla Dargis in The New York Times. But while the story shouldn’t work, it does, partly because Schoenaerts brings to mind John Wayne and partly because his director “has an eye for beauty” and taps into the soul of her desert setting “even as she reminds you of its terrors.” The Mustang “demonstrates that no narrative has become so hackneyed it can’t offer something of value,” said Allison Shoemaker in AVClub.com. “Both broken people and tired stories sometimes deserve a shot at rehabilitation.” ■