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‘Stray’ review: Dog’s eye view documentary is more than cute frills

A dog’s eye view.

Stray will appeal to dog lovers but it is more than another movie about a cute pupper. The documentary uses its four legged subjects to investigate humanity and the bonds that connect. The quiet film looks at the lives of peoples and canines who try to keep moving in life when they seem to have nowhere to go.

Director Elizabeth Lo’s camerawork is incredible. Shot low to the ground for the majority of the film, Stray has a dog’s eye view perspective. As the three strays and their human companions roam the streets of Istanbul, the viewers are privy to the same beauty and indifference the group experiences. Lo is presenting the audience with a world they are unfamiliar with.

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Stray contrasts both worlds with amusing and powerful imagery. Radio broadcasts capture the changes that are occurring in Turkish society. There are protests in the streets and a sense of isolation in many of the scenes. This still does not stop two of the dogs from having an amorous meeting in the middle of a women’s rights march.

As poignant as the film can be in regards to its commentary on humanity, it is the dogs that take center stage. Stray does an excellent job of helping form a relationship between the audience and the furry  protagonists. Much like in real life, there is a sense of understanding and joy in getting to know the dogs. 

Adding to this sense of “it’s a dog’s world” is the way Lo frames Stray. While there are human characters, their faces are not seen often. There is little in the way of conversation, though talking can be overheard. The documentary does a magnificent job of pulling the audience into its narrative. 

Movies about animals may seem like an easy sale. They are cute and fluffy and will probably cause eyes to water up. Stray does succeed in doing that, but it is not just a movie about a lost pet finding their way home. The documentary shows off the spirit of the animals and their bond with humanity.

Stray launches in virtual cinemas March 5

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