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MANIFF 2019: Stray

Stray is an independent film by New Zealand-based director Dustin Feneley, and tells the story of Jack and Grace, two isolated and alienated individuals who find each other in the darkest period of their lives.

This film does not feature much dialogue, and it doesn’t need it. The story is told through the beautiful cinematography, with lingering shots on the characters in large open areas of mountainous terrain, or in uncomfortable and claustrophobic rooms. The world the film presents builds the characters and allows the audience to invest in them even though we learn little about them besides a few details of their tragic backstories.

Jack and Grace are the only named characters and take up most of the screen-time. Both Kieran Charnock as Jack and Arta Dobroshi as Grace give outstanding performances, as we see them trapped in a lonely existence when they are together. In a film as slow-paced as this, the fact that these lead performances were so good ensured that I was hooked from start to finish. The pacing was strong, though I enjoyed the story so much I would’ve been happy for it to have been slightly longer.

I highly recommend Stray. It is a bleak story of two broken people, whilst also offering hope through the emotional change that takes place when they meet each other at exactly the time where they needed each other the most.

4.5/5.

The 5th Manchester Film Festival is taking place at the ODEON Great Northern from 2nd March to 10th March 2019.

Tags: Arta Dobroshi, Dustin Feneley, independent film, Kieran Charnock, MANIFF, New Zealand, Stray

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