‘The Strays’ Characters, Explained: How The Past Etches A New Layer To The Characters’ Personalities?

Some movies are made just to entertain and delight the audience. With every element in the story, the film aspires to tug at the viewers’ heartstrings, from humor and romance to thrills and suspense. But sometimes, there are a few movies that manage to make the viewers think. And that is exactly what Netflix’s “The Strays” does. Written and directed by Nat Martello-White, the movie dabbles in a plethora of issues and themes that resonate well with the modern audience. Moreover, every actor suits their character and aligns with their arc wonderfully. “The Strays” is divided into factions to let the audience know whose perspective they are looking at.


We get a glimpse into Cheryl’s life as “The Strays” begins, where she is immensely agitated and frustrated with her life. We know she is running from her partner, who is a bad man. Years later, we see her as Neve, living in an elite and privileged neighborhood with a life others can only dream of. She has it all: a perfect family, a wealthy husband, and the perfect rich wife’s life. Her life seems to take a detour from poverty and frustration and directly lands into a fairytale. However, she soon starts seeing people from her past life in her new life. Unnerved by the visions, she starts doubting herself and is afraid of her whole life unraveling. This intriguing story makes up the plot of the movie. Watching Nat Martello-White’s film is a complete roller coaster ride. Rather than riding the coattails of the overarching plot, every character in “The Strays” has their own space to shine and bring out the best of the story.

Spoilers Ahead


Cheryl Blake, AKA Neve Williams

On top of a change in her lifestyle, Cheryl changes her name and her accent and completely reinvents herself. Nobody can tell her past or where she comes from just by looking at her. Whether it’s by practicing her accent every morning or surrounding herself with the wealthiest accessories, she manages to let go of her past self to step into the life of the rich. This is because of her ambition and her desire to always want more in life. As they say, greed knows no bounds. Once you have something, the next target/desire seems right around the corner. Cheryl Blake becomes Neve Williams without her new world finding out more about her past.

To some extent, we believe she married Ian only for the life he could give her, for all the luxury she could get. There’s a lack of affection and connection between Ian and Neve. They seem to be superficial, and their bond is shaky at best. Even while having sex, Neve only focuses on finishing rather than connecting in the moment of intimacy. Neve is a person who believes in having the best things for herself. She climbed her way to the top to get a slice of the privileged life. Away from the struggles of poverty, everyday squabbles, and everything related to her past life, Neve seems to run away from what she was. Moreover, she hides her black skin under expensive products and wears a wig to not let even a hair strand out. Her constant worry about not fitting in or seeming out of place lingers in her thoughts. On some level, she is trying to prove to herself that she deserves the life she is living and that she is worthy of a happy family and a stress-free life.


However, her wondrous life seems short-lived. Soon, she starts seeing a black man and a black woman everywhere she goes. For some reason, she gets uncomfortable whenever they are around. She feels as if some part of her past life is following her around and not letting her get away that easily. More than her past, she is also escaping her Black culture. When her daughter, Mary, comes home with an ethnic hairstyle, her reaction tilts towards the negative. She does not even share her culture or ethnicity with her family. Neve is somewhat ashamed of her past and fears anyone finding out more about it. She always seems on edge. What kind of life is she enjoying anyway when she is so afraid and terrified of her history catching up with her?

Neve’s kids from her past life enter her new one with an axe to grind. They take her life by storm as Neve’s worst fears come to life. The two worlds collided with a bang and impacted everyone around them. She does not recognize them at first. She is the mother who left her kids to rot with their aunt and abusive dad without looking back or trying to get in touch with them. Along with her old life, Neve manages to erase her kids as well. This is not how it works. In various aspects, Neve failed as a mother to Carl and Dione. She missed their childhoods when they needed their mother the most. With no support or love around, Carl and Dione had to make it through life by themselves while craving their mother’s love. Neve failed to treat her kids as real humans who would live and suffer alone. With an aspiration to escape the tough life, she forgot to make arrangements or take care of her kids. When life was so hard for her, she did not wonder for even a second what it would be like for Carl and Dione.


Take the climax of “The Strays,” for example. She buys her kids off with the money, as she hopes that will make up for her years of absence. After that, Neve’s ability to compartmentalize and switch gears is presented perfectly. In the face of adversity, she pukes and calms herself enough to take charge of the situation. She joins in Carl and Dione’s madness and fakes an aura of positivity. Nonetheless, Neve does not take action to rectify the situation. Carl goes on to hurt Ian and mess with her kids, but she remains quiet. What she does after that is unpredictably true to her nature. She runs away. Leaving her past and her present, Neve escapes this reality to maybe make a new one in the future. This proves how she is capable of jumping from one life to another until she finds herself satisfied and at peace. On the other hand, considering the selfishness and downright heartlessness of her actions, she will never be able to have a peaceful existence.

Carl And Dione

The two siblings arrive in Neve’s new life to exact revenge and get even. Even though they did not want to go to extreme measures to teach Neve a lesson, the fact that she gave them money to get them to go away sent them over the edge. Years of hatred, resentment and the feeling of abandonment gnawed at their souls, and it was time they demanded their mother back. When they saw Sebastian and Mary enjoy everything in life, they felt jealous and angry at their misfortunes. Growing up without a mother and a father must have been extremely tough. Their aunt also gave them away. Eventually, they only had each other to rely on and navigate the misery of life. Nobody can imagine the sort of deep-seated anger bubbling inside their hearts.


Carl and Dione plan to mess with Neve’s kids to see how the other side lives and breathes. They hoped to spark pain and misery in Neve’s heart through this. Carl befriended Sebastian and imposed a bad influence on him. He made him smoke and try weed. Carl even got Sebastian to hurt his bully. On the other hand, Dione enters Mary’s life to encourage her to try more hairstyles and talk about her (their) mother. To some extent, this was their way of sending Neve’s kids away from her control and setting off on a different path.

Their acts of rage and madness at the end of “The Strays” were not justified, but they were understandable. However, Carl’s treatment of Ian crosses a line. He was angry with Neve, but he took it out on Ian, hoping she would come to her senses. But without skipping a beat, Neve did what she does best—she ran away. While only Carl and Dione had been the titular strays in the story since the beginning, the end witnesses Mary and Sebastian also left alone to rot as stray animals do on the street.


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Vidhi Narula
Vidhi Narula
Bio: With a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication, Vidhi puts her skills to use for dissecting and analyzing the essence of entertainment features. She loves writing about movies and shows that fascinate her. Her love for the numerous fictional worlds grows with every piece of content she consumes. All she hopes to do is deepen her knowledge of the world on screen and widen her horizons by watching movies from across the world.

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