The Mustang parents guide

The Mustang Parent Guide

A deeply felt drama with a smooth, steady pace, and authentic, believable characters.

Overall C

Violent convict Roman Coleman is given the opportunity to join a prison rehabilitation program in which they train wild mustangs.

Release date April 5, 2019

Violence C
Sexual Content A
Profanity D
Substance Use D

Why is The Mustang rated R? The MPAA rated The Mustang R for language, some violence and drug content

Run Time: 96 minutes

Official Movie Site

Parent Movie Review

Roman Coleman (Matthias Schoenaerts) has been in prison for more than a decade – most of it spent in isolation - after committing a brutal assault. Unwilling to discuss his problems with the prison therapist (Connie Briton) or socialize with other people, he is assigned to outdoor duty in the hopes that he won’t cause any trouble. While there, he finds himself drawn to the horses; wild mustangs, which are trained in the prison as a form of alternate rehabilitation prior to being sold at auction. With the stern teaching of Myles (Bruce Dern) and the friendly help of Henry (Jason Mitchell), it seems that Coleman has a chance learning to control his anger. But even with the horse program, he still has to deal with his dangerous cellmate and try to patch up his relationship with his estranged daughter.

This may sound like a fast-moving, intense drama, but it takes its time. It’s not painfully slow or anything like that, but the pacing is smooth and steady. Nothing feels rushed or surprising, the story just unfolds slowly and patiently. This is due, partly, to the artistic camera work. Long shots of prairie, horses, and characters keep the story from rushing ahead.

Lovely images aside, my primary issue with this movie was that I had very limited sympathy for the protagonist. While his emotional journey through the film does improve him, he’s too introverted and too angry to be easily accessible to the audience. While this does speak to the quality of the performance of Matthias Schoenaerts in playing a character deliberately written to be difficult, it does make it harder to stay invested in the movie, particularly early on. While his improvement is appreciable, it makes for rough start when I have to spend the first 20 minutes trying to figure out if the protagonist is a neo-Nazi or not.

As you expect from an R rating, this film is not suitable for children or most teens. Prison is not a happy or safe place and this is accurately reflected on screen. Profanity is the primary concern with this film: I stopped counting after the first dozen f-bombs, and that was inside the first 45 minutes. There’s also some ketamine smuggling and a scene of convicts using the drug.

But if your patience holds out through the rough start and constant cussing, you’ll be rewarded with some emotional, thought-provoking, and interesting cinema featuring complex, troubled characters struggling with deep-seated internal and existential problems. For my money, that makes The Mustang one of the better offerings currently in theaters.

Directed by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre. Starring Matthias Schoenaerts, Jason Mitchell, Bruce Dern. Running time: 96 minutes. Theatrical release April 5, 2019. Updated

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The Mustang
Rating & Content Info

Why is The Mustang rated R? The Mustang is rated R by the MPAA for language, some violence and drug content

Violence: A man punches a horse after it knocks him down. A brutal domestic assault is described but not seen. A man is stabbed in the neck and dies. Two individuals engage in a fistfight. A man is kicked off a horse, dragged by it over rough ground, and then headbutted by it.
Sexual Content: No sexual content is depicted.
Profanity: Not surprisingly, given the prison setting, profanity is common with frequent use of the sexual expletive, scatological curses, and terms of deity. Most other swear words make regular appearances, as do derogatory terms and crude language.
Alcohol / Drug Use: No alcohol is shown. An individual is shown using ketamine recreationally

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The Mustang Parents' Guide

Why does breaking horses help Roman learn to control his emotions? Animals have been shown to help people manage their emotions in many settings. Why do you think that is? Do you find animals helpful or not?

Loved this movie? Try these books…

Robert Redford, Executive Producer of The Mustang, has also co-authored a book about the impact horses can have on people’s mental health. With Tim Hayes, Redford has published Riding Home: The Power of Horses to Heal.

The Horse Leads the Way: Honoring the True Role of the Horse in Equine Facilitated Practice by Angela Dunning, reviews the growing field of equine therapy.

Home Video

Related home video titles:

Classic prison films include Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.

For a family friendly film about breaking horses, try The Man From Snowy River.