Misguided thriller has violence, stereotypes, language.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Strays is a British thriller about a Black woman who is fed up with being marginalized because of her race. She leaves her situation and becomes a new person entirely, but her past comes back to haunt her. There's some violence, intimidation, threat, and peril. A man dies after being briefly tortured by being forced to lift weight that are too heavy, some people terrorize a family with a large knife and implicit threat, but there's very little blood. A teenage biracial boy is racially harassed by a White teen, as he calls him "inbred." A man covers a teenage boy's head with a plastic bag and his stepbrother smashes the victim in the face with a basketball. A mother beats her son with a shoe because he came home too late. A woman has a dream where her hair attacks her like vines growing too fast. An older man encourages a teenage boy to smoke weed, cigarettes, and be violent to another teenager. Sexual content includes a brief sex scene (no nudity) that shows a woman on top of a man. Strong language includes: "f--k," "f--king," "s--t," "goddamn," "hell," and "inbred."
Completely and utterly boring and pointless
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What's the Story?
In THE STRAYS, a Black woman (Ashley Madekwe) faces hardship because of institutionalized racism and marginalization. She leaves that situation for a better life. But many years later, once that life is achieved, her past comes back to haunt her. Will she be able to escape again?
Is It Any Good?
Unfortunately, this disappointing thriller reinforces common stereotypes about Black men and Black mothers. Despite being based on a true story, The Strays, at best, tries yet fails to comment on unjust racial inequalities that led to people making bad life decisions. At worst, this movie can be understandably seen as irresponsible for the ways it depicts Black men and Black mothers. The first half of the film is accompanied by a near constant and ominous score that's meant to dramatize what Cheryl/Neve is feeling inside, which is presumably terror that her past (as a "real" Black woman) will be found out in her current affluent and White environment, but this treatment only reinforces the tired and racist alignment of Black women with being "crazy." The film also doesn't address in a smart way how all the White people in the film seem unbelievably rational, calm, and perfectly fine, while any time "Blackness" appears (like in the form of a Black man), ominous music plays, threatening shots jolt the viewer, and violence happens almost instantly.
This is particularly offensive when the former children of Cheryl/Neve do actually appear (beyond her initial "crazy visions" of them). Inexplicably, the now-adult man and younger sister (that Cheryl/Neve abandoned to a "bad, abusive father" back in her past life) actually return with menace to terrorize their mother and her new family. With venom and violence, the man teaches his stepbrother how to smoke cigarettes, get high (weed), and commit violence (by beating up a racist peer). This man is often shown angry and violent, ultimately torturing and killing the White father, which only further emphasizes how Blackness "equals" criminality and violence. Many children are abandoned but don't grow up wishing violence and terror on their abandoners. Why tell this story? Why tell it in this way and from this perspective? What does the viewer come away with? For some this movie will be simply a failure in that it's a thriller that builds up to an unsatisfying and empty climax, but for others, this movie will be straight up offensive, racist, and irresponsible.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about violence in thrillers. Did the violence in The Strays feel justified? Why or why not?
Would you have made the same decisions as Cheryl? What about as Neve? Why or why not?
Was the ending satisfying? How so or not so?
What stereotypes does the movie reinforce? Why are stereotypical representations so damaging?
- On DVD or streaming: February 22, 2023
- Cast: Ashley Madekwe, Jorden Myrie, Bukky Bakray, Samuel Paul Small
- Director: Nathaniel Martello-White
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: March 2, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
Taut thriller has strong performances; violence, swearing.
End of the Road
Intense thriller has violence, racism, language.
Violence, suspense, language in atmospheric thriller.
For kids who love thrills
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