“The Strays” is centered around the contrasting lives of Cheryl and Neve.

Cheryl, a Black woman in England, faces discrimination and money troubles. Talking to her sister, her struggles with unfair treatment and financial instability come across strongly. Her decision to ignore calls from her spouse and her consideration of going to a hair salon set the stage for the story.

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Years later, we meet Neve—a fair-skinned Black woman living what appears to be a perfect life. She’s married to Ian, a white man, and has two biracial kids, Sebastian and Mary. But beneath the surface, there’s a complex tale of self-deception. Neve’s discomfort with her Black identity is evident as she distances herself from her heritage and avoids anything related.

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Neve’s Complex Exterior

Ashley Madekwe in The Strays (2023)

Ashley Madekwe plays Neve in ‘The Strays’ (2023)

I’m captivated by how Neve relentlessly chases the idea of fitting in. Her journey unfolds as she becomes a part of a primarily white, upper-middle-class neighborhood. Being a deputy headmistress at a private school adds to her efforts to blend in. As she prepares for a fundraising gala, her attempt to be accepted, we see cracks in her façade.

During the gala, Neve’s interactions with two black individuals open the door to confusion. These mysterious figures make her question reality, pushing her to confront a past she’d rather forget. The line between her past and present blurs, setting off a story that forces her to face the consequences of her choices.

“Carl and Dione”

Taking us back in time, we’re introduced to “Carl and Dione.” These enigmatic figures, using different names, become the center of attention. Carl takes on the name “Marvin” and works as a school janitor, while Dione becomes “Abigail” and assists Ian. Their motives remain unclear as they infiltrate Neve’s family life.

These two black teens becoming a part of Neve’s family sparks intricate connections. Their attempts to connect with their replacements, Sebastian and Mary, reveal emotions ranging from curiosity to anger. This paints a picture of individuals grappling with the scars of abandonment.

The Climax (SPOILER)

As the story peaks, the real identities of “Carl and Dione” come to light—they’re Neve’s abandoned children. This revelation stirs emotions as the abandoned siblings confront Neve about her past. Her attempts to make amends with money are resisted, revealing the complexity of fractured family bonds.

Things intensify with a chilling home invasion orchestrated by Carl and Dione. As they flood the house and demand a taste of the family they never had, Neve’s carefully built façade falls apart. The tense game of Scrabble mirrors the chaos in Neve’s life.

Complex Characters Steal the Show

The Strays (2023) Cast

Ashley Madekwe, Bukky Bakray, Tom Andrews, Lucy Liemann, and Samuel Paul Small in ‘The Strays’ (2023)

What makes “The Strays” powerful is its well-crafted characters, each wrestling with emotions. Ashley Madekwe embodies Neve’s internal struggle with identity and denial. Bukky Bakray and Jorden Myrie bring depth to “Carl and Dione,” portraying various emotions. 

From Inspiration to the Big Screen

“The Strays” is rooted in real-life inspiration, blurring the lines between fiction and reality. Writer and director Danilo Martello-White drew from a story of a biracial woman with two sets of children—one Black, the other white-passing. The woman’s refusal to acknowledge her first children became the foundation for a narrative exploring racial identity complexities.

Final Thoughts: Lingering Echoes

As “The Strays” concludes, a haunting question stays with me—how deep do our choices leave scars? The film mirrors human relationships, neglect’s impact, and the fragility of identity. This journey challenges our perceptions and resonates long after the movie ends.

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In the tapestry of “The Strays,” I find a story that goes beyond entertainment. It pushes us to face our demons, come to terms with past choices, and embrace self-acceptance. As the screen fades, I’m left contemplating family bonds, the weight of our decisions, and the transformation brought by self-discovery.

Pia Vermaak

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

Pia Vermaak is an accomplished digital marketing agency owner and professional content writer with a remarkable track record in the industry.

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