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" I can’t believe Liberace was gay "
— Mike Myers, Austin Powers

MRQE Top Critic

The East

The East emerges as an exciting piece of filmmaking from the independent scene’s hott —Matt Anderson (review...)

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The title is Strayed, but the French title, Les Egarés, seems to imply not a verb but a noun, “the ones who strayed.” In any case, it doesn’t shed much light on the movie, which is a very straightforward tale with no central conflict and barely any resolution.

Missing Chapters

Will Yvan be Odile's son or lover?
Will Yvan be Odile’s son or lover?

It is 1940. The Germans are marching into France, and Parisians and other Frenchmen are fleeing the cities. On a road crowded with Parisian refugees, a German plane makes a strafing run, killing Frenchmen left and right.

A son, daughter, and young mother (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet, Clémence Meyer, Emmanuelle Béart) flee the road for the cover of nearby trees. A lone young man, Yvan (Gaspard Ulliel), throws in his lot with theirs. He finds them an abandoned brick house in the middle of fecund fields.

Yvan is of an age where he could be an older brother to the children, or a young lover to the mother. Will Odile take him as a son or a husband, or just as a friend, or neither? There are other minor conflicts that can’t drive an entire movie, such as whether it’s better to be armed or not to have guns around; who’s in charge, the more mature woman or the young man; and whether to stay in the house and wait out the war or to leave as soon as possible to find larger French communities to stay with. There is a component of mystery, too, regarding Yvan’s past.

But none of these, and nothing else, rise to the level of literary conflict. When the movie ends, it’s a huge surprise, because nothing has been resolved. It ends with a semicolon and not a period. Strayed feels like a chapter in a much longer work.

A Movie In Search of Meaning

The movie does have some good qualities: golden cinematography, sympathetic characters, and interesting settings (both the story’s setting in 1940 and the visual setting of the pastoral countryside and homey manor house). But overall the movie inspires indifference.

The press notes speak of a subtle reawakening of the three members of the family. They each change and grow for having known Yvan. But the changes are subtle and not very noteworthy.

There is also a sexual aspect to the film. It’s a quiet buzz most of the way through, although it crescendoes into the main melody for one titillating yet futile, unfulfilling scene. Maybe a critic with more stock in Freud could tell you more about the meaning, although I’d say Strayed is a story in search of meaning.

Another movie this year, Broken Wings, looks at a family where the husband/father has died. That film is about the reunification of the family through each member’s own internal conflict. Maybe Strayed shows the same process, but brought about by an outside force. Neither movie is boring — both are engaging while in the theater — but neither has anything fascinating to say.

Strayed gets as neutral a recommendation as is possible. Don’t avoid it, don’t seek it out, and if you find yourself watching it, try to make the best of it.