In The Strays, Neve Williams is a well-to-do black woman, who lives in a predominantly white area in the suburbs, and works as a Deputy Headmistress at a local private school. Neve is married, has two children, is seen as a pillar in the community, and regularly hosts functions in her neighbourhood to raise money for charity.
From the outside, everything in Neve’s life seems perfect; but Neve is harbouring a secret about her past, which she hopes will never be exposed. However, as Neve soon discovers, buried secrets have a nasty way of coming to the surface, and when two strangers arrive in town it kick-starts a series of life-changing events.
Truths are revealed, lies are exposed, and Neve’s day-to-day existence is put to the test. But who are the strangers, and what do they want with a seemingly polite woman, who doesn’t seem to be causing anyone any harm?
Written and directed by Nathaniel Martello-White, and starring Ashley Madekwe, Justin Salinger, and Jorden Myrie, The Strays is a dark mystery thriller, which is new to Netflix from today. The movie follows the story of a middle-aged woman, who may not be the person she appears to be, and is a slow-burning tale about deception, privilege, and heritage.
Told in five acts, the movie sets up its initial premise in the first couple of segments, before using the remaining acts to move back and forth a little in the timeline, to help explain and explore its central mystery. With each new act, the film gets a little darker, Neve’s story gets a little clearer, and the truth about who she is, is laid bare.
From a structural point of view, the unfolding of the mystery is handled fairly well, with a few teases and some misdirection thrown in here and there, before everything is brought together. However, in terms of the movie’s pace, it is very slow in places and it may test the patience of some audiences.
The Strays certainly tested my patience, and during the second act I became quite bored, quite quickly. Thankfully things picked up after a while, and the back-end of the film proved to be far better than what came before, but it did feel like a slog to get to this point.
But even though The Strays does improve as it progresses, with the final act being the best of the bunch, I’m not entirely convinced it is worth the wait. While this film isn’t terrible, it’s not great either, and it never feels like it really goes anywhere truly unexpected or thrilling.
What doesn’t help The Strays out, is the niggling feeling that it has taken some inspiration from two Jordan Peele movies: Get Out (2017) and US (2019). That’s not to say The Strays is like either of these films, because it is not, but it certainly has dashes of these movies, and all this does is remind the audience they would be better off revisiting those films, rather than watching this one.
The Strays also struggles a little with some of its story, which at times feels like the plot of an episode of Eastenders. Remove some of the early misdirection, and take away the film’s ominous tone, and there is a soap storyline in here, and not much else.
This isn’t me throwing any shade at soaps by the way, I have a particular liking for the drama and plotting seen in soaps (as well as a strong fondness for the likes of Neighbours, Prisoner, etc), but I don’t expect to watch this kind of storyline play out in a movie. Once you get to the heart of The Strays it all feels kind of underwhelming and like it has been done before, and you can’t help but feel like you’ve wasted a bit of time.
In fairness to The Strays, there are a couple of decent ideas about race, class, and privilege, and the cast are all fine, but ultimately this film is nothing special. If I had walked away from it midway through, it wouldn’t have bothered me in the slightest, and even though I did see it through to the end, I don’t feel any better for it.
I’m sorry to say, but The Strays feels like the dictionary definition of ‘meh’. While it is watchable, and once again not terrible, it is unexceptional and leaves the audience feeling rather apathetic.
Thank you for taking the time to read this review on It’s A Stampede!. For more reviews, check out the recommended reads below.
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