Hypnotic debut a tale of two people

STRAY

Director: Dustin Feneley
Cast:  Arta Dobroshi, Kieran Charnock
Rating: (M)
★★★★ (out of five)

 

Reviewed by Jeremy Quinn
 

Stray is a film I really liked; a very strong debut from Dustin Feneley, and one no doubt influenced by the minimalist stylings of American directors Kelly Reichardt and Gus Van Sant, yet also somewhat difficult to describe in terms of plot, as there’s a lot of intentional ambiguity built into it.

Jack (Kieran Charnock) has been released from prison, somewhere in the North Island, for an unknown crime.

He shirks his parole responsibilities, travelling to Central Otago, where his father owns a remote shack in which he can set up alone.

He meets Grace (Arta Dobroshi), a homeless woman just released from a psychiatric hospital, after he finds her sneaking onto his property, looking for a place to stay ... and then somehow an unlikely romance ensues.

The visuals are impressive; it’s very slow-paced and deliberately framed.

The sound design is top notch, and there are so many beautiful silences that any abrupt changes in volume are wonderfully disconcerting.

The two lead performances are first class; it’s a film where all the elements work in unison.

It won’t be for everyone, but arthouse devotees will certainly enjoy it.

Stray has a kind of hypnotic effect, which may alter depending on how much you relate to the story and its characters, but there’s a neat streak of very subtle humour to keep you grounded and attentive throughout.

It also manages to transcend its New Zealand setting, feeling like a universal tale that could be transported anywhere, boding well for its international appeal.

 

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