The Strays (2023) Movie Ending, Explained: Nathaniel Martello-White aimed “Get Out” high with his directorial debut, the latest talk of the Netflix streamer town. And while the stylistic influence left behind by the Peele-made horror-thriller sometimes hits you in the face out of nowhere in The Strays, that’s pretty much the generous extent of the two thrillers’ similitude. The first compelling quarter itself lays bare its admirable intentions with the menacing, slow-burn brewing of a terrorizing whirlwind. Expecting a front-seat view of our bigoted protagonist’s cataclysmic annihilation is the only plausible aftermath of the chilling development.




It is only when the script’s wings are clipped for it to fit in the overindulgent mold that practically mass-produces thrillers for Netflix that The Strays is made to go batty out of its original potential. It’s hard to watch the exceedingly relevant and rightly placed study of racial complexities get diluted with whimsical thrills for the sake of being digestible to most. A round of applause still for the British actor-director who was accorded all the possible roadblocks and seems to have fought tooth and nail for evidently establishing some of his fundamental intentions. But since you’re here already, let me dive into the scrutinization of all that takes place.

The Strays (2023): Plot Summary and Movie Synopsis

Cinder block-like stacked-up cubicle homes are where Cheryl has found a room to nest in. She has worked hard in life and would have achieved a great deal if it wasn’t for the capitalist deadends of industries, the disprivilege of her race, and a good-for-nothing husband. She doesn’t have a sympathetic ear in her sister, whose run-of-the-mill advice to miserable Cheryl is to stifle her patrician dreams and settle for the cards she’s been dealt.




For now, what eats away at Cheryl resonates with those of us who find it hard to come to terms with not having the materialistic attributes of our life match our merit and/or our efforts. So Cheryl should hardly face contempt for refusing to submit to a life devoid of the glamour she deserves, especially when you consider how drab her life must be with a shitty husband. The chaotic instinct she gives in to next is what separates Cheryl from the rest of the back-breaking working class that, to my knowledge, is made up of much more sensible folks. Jittery, Cheryl packs her bags and bolts off to a better life-leaving her two kids behind.

What Does Cheryl’s New Life Look Like?

I’m sure some peculiar time has passed, and Cheryl is now Neve. She has shed off all traces of her old, drab self, including her racial identity. The relatively lighter-skinned black woman, petrified of all things pertaining to the black community, probably has her silky wigs combed by birds in her fairytale, regal home. She has perfected her accent to match that of the white-only uber-rich crowd of her upper-class neighborhood.




Married to an affluent Ian and living a lordly life with their two children, Sebastian and Mary, Neve has raised her stature to the deputy headmistress seat at the expensive private school that her children go to. Terrified of her black identity, Neve fights to keep her internalized racism quiet as she shudders to look at the edge styling on her daughter’s textured hair. Yet, the same woman, only to parade around her abundance of wealth, is about to host a charity gala to raise funds for disabled Gambian children in her lavish home that is meditatively vacant of any traces of black ethnicity.

How Does Neve’s Perfect Life Unravel?

Every time she is out and about in her haughty neighborhood, Neve is soothed by the exclusion of black people. When she first sees a black man walking behind her from the side mirror, panicky Neve crashes her car into that of her neighbor. Her turbulent emotional unraveling is only nudged further when she lays her eyes on the black guy hired to fill the janitorial post in her school. And if that wasn’t triggering enough for the racist deputy principal, seeing her son Sebastian having a chat with the janitor completely sends Neve off the rails.




When she strives to get the man fired for sharing a smoke with her son, the principal overpowers her draconian hand, who doesn’t want a bigotry stamp on the school’s image. She is met with a bone-chilling confrontation with the black janitor during a fire scare, and she evades having to talk to him by saying that she is not the person that he is looking for–suggesting that Neve knows more than she is ready to speak up about. Her almost mystical plight worsens as her hidden textured hair threatens to break out from under the prickly wig she scratches like a mad woman.

To add to the frenzied commotion in her mind, she is haunted by the fleeting embodiments of a black girl. Her perversive fears infiltrate her dreams, and her subconscious torments her with the sights of snaking cracks on her walls which are about to crumble down concurrently with her carefully designed life falling apart. Denying her buried identity is increasingly difficult for Neve, whose feverish nightmares have dreadlocks wrapping around her like vines ready to consume her within themselves. It doesn’t help Neve when a posh tea with her stuck-up friends is interrupted by the sudden onset of an anxiety attack which is only followed by the hard-to-digest sight of Mary’s hair having been braided. 

How Does Mary’s Past Sneak Up On Her?

Ashley Madekwe in The Strays 2023 Netflix Movie
Ashley Madekwe in The Strays 2023

An unnecessary flashback and the film’s lowest point let us get acquainted with Carl and Dione, the struggling black siblings who have saved up enough money for a hotel to stay in and hatch an ambush. The kids that now Neve had abandoned when she used to go by Cheryl are back to demand answers after over a decade of silence. To keep a close eye on their estranged mother, Carl takes a janitorial job at the school, and Dione grabs a secretary job at Ian’s firm.




Carl befriends Sebastian and pulls the unsuspecting teen into a web of manipulations to get to know more about their questionable mother’s new family. Similarly, Dione gets closer to Mary and learns of the charity gala to be hosted at Neve’s massive house through her. While they did start off with the idea that they were only going to keep up their ruse to garner information from their newfound siblings, the longer they spend time with Sebastian and Mary, the anger they’ve been taming for a lifetime starts to show its grisly teeth. The more they see the happy life loaded with money that Neve’s new kids get to live, their cauldron of destitute foam up with the rage of having been denied the life they should have been granted.

On the day of the gala, the unwanted invitees show up to marvel at all the luxuries that could be theirs and a mother who would rather refuse their existence than embrace them. Seeing Carl and Dione is like looking at the gloomy materialization of her new life’s demise. Neve vehemently lashes out, scaring her new family and entertaining the shocked gazes of the guests. She is met with the pain in her forsaken daughter’s voice as it breaks to exclaim, “mother.” Neve isn’t the least bit troubled by any sense of guilt as she convinces her new family that she had to leave them behind to abscond her abusive marriage. She even goes as far as to pay Dione and Carl off to absolve herself and to get them going on a different path. 




The Strays (2023) Ending Explained

Do Carl And Dione Get Their Revenge?

A bottomless well of lies that Neve is, she hasn’t said anything to her new family about paying off Dione and Carl. She has even manipulated them into giving her a fair shot at fixing everything. Although how quick her family is to get on with their lives is an unbelievable atrocity that the lazy writing is responsible for. As Neve is immersed in sound sleep and her mind is at peace knowing that she has succeeded in holding off the interference of a past, she would rather forget Dione and Carl and pull up at the house. While the family is asleep, Dione draws a bath, and Carl submerges their phones in the sink full of water.

Awakened by the untimely noise, Neve and her family comes downstairs to witness a psychotic family reunion they don’t wish to be a part of. When Carl and Dione came to Neve’s city, they hoped to find an apologetic mother who would make it up to them for leaving them behind. Instead, they found a woman bereft of a soul or any speck of conscience whatsoever.




Even when Dione had placed her hand forward, Neve flinched as though she was cringing at the thought of her hand touching a black person. Being shoved away and rejected for the second time in their life birthed a sociopathic sense of revenge in the crestfallen children. Neve’s new family has been cut off from the world outside, and they are now to play at their hijackers’ whims. Mary is made to order food in the middle of the night to celebrate Dione’s birthday.

The furious siblings implore Neve and the rest to join them for a game of scrabble as the water from the sink floods the house. Savvy at pretending to be whoever she wants to be, Neve decides to put on a smile and play along. Carl forces Ian to join him for an inconvenient workout and keeps pushing the feeble guy until the weight he can’t possibly hold off falls on him and cracks his neck.




Unflinched by her husband’s death, Neve goes to the door to pick up their ordered food. She asks the delivery guy to wait for a tip and goes back in with a smile. When everyone else is distracted by the absolute mayhem the house has fallen into, Neve comes downstairs with the purse and smiles at Dione as she walks to the door. She looks at herself in the doorway mirror like she did when fleeing for the first time.

As her four children watch with befuddled eyes, the mother rides off on the back of the delivery guy’s motorcycle, leaving everyone behind yet again. Carl and Dione may have shown the obvious signs of a cyclonic psychotic break, but the real sociopath is the woman who has never been able to form an attachment with anyone in her life, not even her own children. A person who changed her entire identity like yesterday’s clothes was devoid of any emotions that didn’t serve her materialistically. All she ever wished for is affluence; perhaps she will walk into another unsuspecting person’s life to achieve the same.

Also, Read – 10 South Korean Thrillers With Notable Socio-Economic Commentary


The Strays Movie Cast: Ashley Madekwe, Bukky Bakray
External Links: IMDb

 

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