By GLENN TOLLE
Starring Karen Fukuhara, Christine Woods, Miyavi
Written by J.D. Dillard, Joe Sill, Alex Theurer
Directed by Joe Sill
A friend of mine recently asked me if I believed in reincarnation. I told him that I believed it was a beautiful concept but that I couldn’t accept its supernatural element. But I do believe in its scientific aspect, namely, that when we die, we return to the earth and become nutrients for the soil that helps in the growth of new life.
STRAY is a perfect blend of the supernatural and the scientific aspects of reincarnation. Its stylized urban fantasy/noir narrative springs from the force of loss, an ever present character in the movie, one that is equally acknowledged and ignored. Ultimately, STRAY is a portrait of loss and how we respond to it and forces us to ask the question: in the face of loss, will we grow into our new lives or will we die in our old lives?
STRAY centers around two powerful women with special abilities who have lost everything. One is a homicide detective, recently separated from her husband (who is now her boss) and struggling to separate herself from the shadow that fell over there marriage. The other is a supernaturally gifted 18 year old whose family has been murdered. Through their collective will to grow out of their losses, the women become a force strong enough to overcome the darkness that threatens to (quite literally) petrify them.
I enjoyed every minute of STRAY and, aside from a few brief moments were the dialogue was too quick or quiet for me to catch, I would be hard pressed to find any major flaw in this elegantly awkward fantasy. Some might criticize STRAY for its occasionally restrained performances, its heavy use of CGI, and its confusing/illogical narrative choices, but I would ask those people to stand back and look at the film as a whole. Nearly everything in STRAY is deliberately “unnatural” so that the rare moments that are commonplace stand out even more. At their core, the characters are uncertain as to what they are doing and where they are going. Everything from how they dress and interact to how they respond to major developments is punctuated with a large pause and a brief fumble. The characters of this movie are isolated and unsure of where they fit in.
STRAY may not be a straight up horror film but that’s okay. It stands on its own legs, an amalgam of multiple genres and reoccurring themes.