There’s a lot to unpack from Nathaniel Martello-White’s psychological thriller The Strays, It’s a cyclical social commentary on racial discrimination and elitism that unfolds through a series of events.
We begin with a prologue sequence where Neve (Ashley Madakwe) is in the throes of a mental breakdown, trapped in an as-yet-undisclosed world with only the thought of escape on her mind. So she packs some of her things and leaves her flat and whatever troubles that she can’t face behind her.
Cut to a title sequence informing the audience that its years later and Neve has now established herself a life of privilege as deputy principal of an elite school with a husband and two kids. The social ladder that she has climbed has seen her as a socialite within the small town community.
Try as she might to hide behind this facade, the mask soon slips as she questions whether she is losing her grip on reality or has her past come back to haunt her as two mysterious assailants appear to be creeping further into her new life threatening to rip it apart at the seams.
When we reach the third segment, we get to go back to find out the true identity of the two assailants, Marvin (Jordan Merle) and Abigail Bukky Bakray) are revealed to be her two children from a previous life. Naturally there is a lot of pent up aggression having been abandoned and to discover that their mother is now living a wealthy lifestyle.
The film’s climax entitled Family Reunion is a pot boiler of emotion all shot in one take to embody the natural performances from each of the characters. It’s nervy, unsettling and delicately poised as the audience is left ambling along with the characters to find a solution. What is presented is one that may leave audiences baffled or applauding its direction.
Martello-White delivers a stylised directorial piece that examines the cyclical behaviour that trauma has on society. The performances are solid, particularly from Madakwe and Bukray throwing powerful portrayals of their respective characters.
The experiment and mode of delivery may irk, especially with its stylised execution but for a debut feature, there is enough punch to make one sit up and take notice.
- Saul Muerte