Inspired by a true story, Netflix’s newest psychological mystery-thriller, The Strays, certainly was nothing as I expected. The trailer did an excellent job of not giving too much, if anything, away to the audience. The British movie follows a biracial woman (played by Ashley Madekwe) whose life of privilege in a suburban town is interrupted after two strangers show up. As it turns out, these two strangers are the son and daughter she left behind years ago.
The movie is played out in chapters. It starts with Madekwe’s character, Cheryl, living an unhappy life in London, England. After crying to her sister on the phone, Cheryl decides to start over somewhere else. Before leaving, the audience sees a newspaper on her with the headline: “Black Kids Betrayed By Schools.” Cheryl continues talking to her sister about her unhappiness while a baby cries in the background. After the phone call, Cheryl packs a bag, walks out the door, and vanishes.
The Strays has been compared to Jordan Peele’s films. This comment relates to the background music, camera shots, and eerie plot. Comments in the movie also noticed Cheryl, now named Neve, ignoring her African-American heritage once she starts a new life and moves into a predominantly white neighborhood. After leaving London, Neve marries a White man and becomes a mother to a fair-skinned son and daughter. We noticed how she, as her son says, keeps “anything Black off limits.” Viewers get a glimpse of this after her negative reaction to her teenage daughter’s cornrows. This theory is also brought to light after the audience learns that the children Neve abandoned in London are Black. The movie’s director, Nathaniel Martello-White, revealed he came up with the plot after hearing about a biracial woman who had one Black child, and one who looked White. “When I was told that story, it really stayed with me,” said Martello-White. “The idea of this woman who was so caught up in shame that she would deny the existence of her Black children.”
The title “The Strays” reveals its true meaning at the end of the film: Neve once again abandons her children, but this time, all four of them. With the children having no mother and Neve no longer having a family, they are all strays. The movie leaves viewers wondering what’s next for the siblings.
Overall, I was entertained by the movie. However, I found myself irritated with Neve’s want to erase anything related to Black culture from herself and her children. Though an interesting story, I wasn’t a fan of the ending. How was Neve so okay with not only leaving her two oldest children a second time but also her two youngest children? How was she so okay to leave her sister at the beginning of the movie? Her eagerness to run from consequences made me curious about her younger years. I also wondered how she managed to disappear twice with nothing but the clothes on her back. Maybe leaving is just what she does.
Nonetheless, The Strays was a thrilling watch but left the audience with too many unanswered questions.