Out Now On-Demand
Set in the chilly environments of New Zealand's South Island, this stark drama follows a self-confined man reeling from an act of violence.
"Jack (Kieran Charnock, The Rehearsal), a taciturn young man on parole for grievous bodily harm, holes up in a cabin somewhere in Central Otago. It’s not clear whether he’s trying to forget the past or reconcile with it, although his hesitancy with locals suggests he’s much closer to the scene of the crime than he’d care to admit. Locked away in a prison of his own making, Jack one evening encounters Grace, very far from home and seeking refuge. Played by the captivating Arta Dobroshi, star of the Dardenne brothers’ Lorna’s Silence, Grace’s own private struggles linger beneath her attraction to Jack. These lonely, enigmatic strangers drift into a relationship that promises to either heal or hurt." (New Zealand International Film Festival)
As well as breaking a local crowd-funding record, Stray became the first New Zealand film to be selected to play at the prestigious Moscow International Film Festival. Better yet, Charnock won Best Actor.
- Dustin Feneley(feature debut)
Drama, Festival & Independent
Rating: M Adult themes
With an unmatched synthesis of attentive direction and rigorous aesthetic intent, Stray fortifies hope in the breadth and ambition of New Zealand film. Set during a permeating southern winter, the film follows tortured strangers Jack (Kiernan Charnock) and Grace (Arta Dobroshi) recalibrating their lives in the mountains of remote Central Otago. In this exquisite debut from writer/director Dustin Feneley, the two find themselves in a charged, intricate intimacy.
It’s terrifically bracing to watch a character study that doesn’t patronise its audience. With a textural pacing at times vaguely reminiscent of Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, Stray renders the meticulous details of relentless isolation. In one scene, Jack grimaces as he runs water over a wound on his palm, then patches himself up. Is there anything more stupidly lonely than injuring yourself when no one else is around? Later, when Grace first stays the night, Jack makes up a bed for her, tenderly laying a sheet on the mattress; a small yet momentous gesture of effort and care he never afforded himself.
These poetic details are ever enriched by Sophie Durham’s expert production design and the phenomenal eye of cinematographer Ari Wegner. Natural light and soft shadows are expertly diffused to conjure winter’s aching fatigue. Fogged windows, crisp duvets, and worn leather dining chairs build on the film’s naturalistic tactility.
Carefully considering the relationship between masculinity and situation, New Zealand film history echoes throughout Stray. And yet, the perceptive contours shaped throughout the film truly do constitute a breath of fresh air.
Stuff.co.nz (Graeme Tuckett)
NZ Herald (Tom Augustine)
This was a very nicely shot movie - very beautiful though the dialogue and interactions can be often frustrating because of their artistically drawn-out style. This made the pacing a little too slow for my liking.
heartfelt and elegiac
An assured depiction of raw emotion in an austere yet beautiful film. Memorable casting and performances lend touches of warmth in the wintry landscape.
This is a film where all the most interesting bits ended up on the cutting room floor, leaving viewers to puzzle out the director’s intentions from the almost arbitrary leftovers. For a movie that effects to be a visually led piece, it’s ironic and telling that deciphering the thing utterly depends on two egregiously expositional dialogue scenes. If you love long vacant shots of people staring into space, have at it. The movie isn’t worthless - rarely has a NZ film captured so completely the flavour of Colin McCahon’s quote, “NZ is a land with too few lovers”, but I’m not sure that’s a recommendation.
Amazing - Must Watching
Absolutely visually stunning! Universally heart felt story and brilliamtly acted!