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The Turkish drama "Mustang" — which received an Oscar nomination in the Foreign Language Film category Thursday — is a human tragedy in slow motion, a gripping story of five young sisters whose vibrancy and joy are bottled up by religious extremism.

It's the end of a school year in a predominantly Muslim village in Turkey, and the sisters, ranging in age from 12 to 17, leave in a celebratory mood. Along with a few boy classmates, the girls go to the nearby beach and frolic in the surf and sand. All's right in the world until the girls get home and are punished by their grandmother (Nihal G. Koldas) — who heard from a busybody neighbor that the girls were allowing boys to touch them inappropriately.

We soon learn that the girls' parents are dead, and they are being raised by their grandmother and their uncle, Erol (Ayberk Pekcan). Erol decrees that the girls aren't being raised in a proper Muslim household and dictates changes. Soon, the girls have to give up their summer shorts for drab, shapeless long dresses. Meanwhile, Erol has a wall erected around the house, turning the girls' home into a prison.

The girls test their newly imposed limits, sneaking off to see Turkey's national soccer team play a match. When they get back, though, Erol has another awful surprise waiting: He intends to marry them off, one by one, in couplings arranged by the prospective grooms' parents.

The eldest, Sonay (Ilayda Akdogan), refuses to be set up with a spouse and instead marries her boyfriend Ekin (Enes Surum). Selma (Tuba Sunguroglu), the second-oldest, then finds herself being prepped for an arranged marriage. When the youngest, Lale (Gunes Sensoy), sees how miserable Selma is — and the risks their middle sister, Ece (Elit Iscan), takes to provoke their uncle — she declares to the fourth sister, Nur (Doga Doguslu), that they must escape to Istanbul or face lives of misery.

Turkish-born, French-educated director Deniz Gamze Ergüven is stunning in her feature debut. Co-writing with Alice Winocour, Ergüven captures the rebellious spirit of these five girls — and the lengths their uncle Erol, in the name of chastity and religious purity, will go to extinguish that flame.

Ergüven's luckiest break was finding the five charismatic young women to portray these powerful and truly individual characters. (Only Iscan, playing the middle sister Ece, had acting experience before this film.) The five feel authentic as sisters and as conspirators in their efforts not to be shackled by others' strictures on womanhood. These five young women provide the energy that gives "Mustang" its kick.

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Five sisters must deal with the strictures of being a young Muslim woman in this powerful drama.

Where • Broadway Centre Cinemas.

When • Opens Friday, Jan. 15.

Rating • PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content and a rude gesture.

Running time • 97 minutes.