In your travels you will always come across a movie that will leave you off balance after you view it. I definitely had this feeling after viewing Nena Eskridge’s 2015 vehicle by the name of Stray. Stray is a classic drama of love and murder not for those favoring the short attention span. It is a slow burner and you have to be patient for the payoff.
Stray, to be blunt, suffers from a lot of pretty weak deliveries on part of many of the actors. I actually found myself cringing during several scenes when the intensity was turned up by Dan McGlaughlin playing “Greg”. I just was not convinced. That is not to say that Dan’s performance was all subpar. He delivered his softer lines much more paced and smooth, bring the sincerity through.
The beautiful Gabrielle Stone played the lead role of “Jennifer” and I personally loved her performance. I really identified with this character meeting people just like her in my life. “Jennifer” was like a ghost. You really do not know where she comes from and really do not know where she goes. She is a person that makes you very uncomfortable, but you want to still learn her story. This is the root of her power over people. That is the one thing that Stray left me wanting more of though. “How did you end up like this Jennifer?” We do get some flashbacks explaining some of her childhood, but in general, it is a mystery.
The whole mood of Stray is just very oppressive, even though all of these events happen in a picture perfect all-American small town. We get some shots of the town and I was reminded of the juxtaposition presented in David Lynch’s brilliant Blue Velvet. We have this cute little town, but there is still this dark feeling you have because you know what ugly things are really happening in its underbelly.
All in all though, Stray does really fall short of being a truly great drama. I never felt myself rooting for any of the characters in this film, I was just waiting for the end to come already knowing what was going to happen before it happened for me. Stray, really does capture a darkness that I still can’t put my finger on though, and I think that is the films main saving grace.
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- Scott W. Lambert