Showing different perspectives from the streets of Istanbul, filmmaker Elizabeth Lo explores the day-to-day lifestyle of stray dog Zeytin in Stray.  There are brief transitions to other viewpoints provided by fellow pooches or human beings, but Zeytin is certainly the star of the show.

Speaking of perspective, I can only review Stray from my point-of-view. And, I found the movie nearly impossible to watch without thinking of Ceyda Torun’s runaway hit Kedi, a documentary following stray cats in Istanbul and their relationships to the society around them.  There’s a moment in Stray where Zeytin finds a little kitty and, honestly, I thought the movie became a crossover.  Although both observant movies are ingrained in the population of homeless and unclaimed animals, Stray seems to have a more broadened scope than Kedi.  But, that’s not necessarily an advantage.

While the collection of fly-on-the-wall footage of Zeytin is interesting, Stray hints towards a deeper, eye-opening pandemic: the mistreatment of helpless and homeless youth.  Zeytin occasionally meets up with a group of street kids, and accompanies them while they find shelter and get high.  To them, the dogs are their only companions and support system.  Most strangers who encounter Zeytin and any other canines are friendly and, even though some of the dogs look a bit mangy, they can’t resist petting them.  However, from the perspective of Zeytin, we hear similar people react negatively towards the homeless kids;  suggesting to viewers that the animals have a better hand dealt to them than the humans.

I’m torn on Elizabeth Lo’s intentions with Stray.  Part of me wants to believe she was trying to show this contrast, part of me wants to doubt it and classify this as a happy accident, and another part of me wants to claim she is covering too many messages about homelessness.  However, whenever the film’s purpose feels muddled or confusing, this is my suggestion: relax, lean back, and let Zeytin guide you through Istanbul in this spellbinding slice of life.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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