The Strays (Drama, Thriller) (2023)
Director: Nathaniel Martello-White
Writer: Nathaniel Martello-White
Stars: Ashley Madekwe, Justin Salinger, Bukky Bakray, Samuel Paul Small
An upper-class socialite in a typical white suburban neighbourhood is confronted with her arduous past as two outsiders appear in town, driving her into a furore.
As Nathaniel Martello-White’s feature film debut, he displays a perplexing thriller nearing Blaxploitation-flick. It’s a capable British feature made for streaming and requires an open mind. It has been filmed around the London, Suffolk and Berkshire Counties and produced by Air Street Films and The Bureau while distributed on Netflix.
Living an idyllic life as a bi-racial woman of colour in a white suburb, Neve (Ashley Madekwe) works in a deputy headmistress role at the local private school, soon to be hosting a gala at her stately home. That life is soon in disarray when two unknown coloured individuals enter town and encroach upon Neve’s perfect life.
In a modernised Blaxploitation style, Martello-White’s debut seems relatively capable of what it does. While not entirely clear, that’s the intention and intent is soon delivered upon within well-structured acts.
Within a brief prelude, filmed in a 4:3 aspect ratio. ‘’The Strays’’ introduces Cheryl, a woman with her life in shambles. Before long, she’s re-introduced as Neve, a vastly more successful figure, seemingly abandoning her past life and cultural identity to fit into the white suburb she inhabits. An honest, if not purposefully exaggerated, reflection on society with an obvious inspiration to the directorial work of Jordan Peele.
Taking ample time to unravel the racially-tinted thriller narrative, strenuous moments with Madekwe’s Neve perhaps hallucinating or, either way, growing increasingly hysterical, it uses its interconnected acts as a means to piece itself together. Nearing the horror genre, it presents discordantly with specific characteristics not to be confused with said genre. How it structures itself is imperative, and the main character completely disassociating with her past feels raw and different.
Much like any well-constructed thriller, ‘’The Strays’’ provides a gradual burn working towards a moment-du-supreme. However, it’s regrettable to see it doesn’t deliver that, despite well-acted hyperbolic proficiency within the talent, a suitable ride with an unavoidably botched ending.
Strays too far.