(Les Egares)

While Germans bomb France and the French people desperately make their way south, a family of three and a young man hide out in an abandoned countryside estate. Odile (Emmanuelle Beart, 8 Women, Les Destinees) and her children Philippe (Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet) and Cathy (Clemence Meyer) were driving with other refugees when an air raid destroyed the car they were in. Yvan (Gaspard Ulliel, Summer Things, Alias) led them to safety in the forest. Strayed is mainly about Odile, and how she is adapting to the drastic changes in her life. Her husband died early in the war, although she still tells young Cathy that he is away. The presence of Yvan changes everything. He is seventeen, not quite a man, and no longer a boy.

For director Andre Techine, (Beach Café, Far Away), who adapted Strayed with Gilles Taurand (24 Hours in the Life of a Woman, Cet Amour-La) from the novel by Gilles Perrault, it was a good chance to delve into the complex emotions of a woman barely holding on. Odile has to maintain her composure as not to panic her children while war rages around them. Although there is very little violence in Strayed, it is always lurking around the corner. She is panicked, and has no way of letting it out. So when Yvan shows up, she is very wary. Here is a stranger, a young boy at that, who wants to tell her what is best for her children. When he finds a house, they both clash over the rules. He wants to keep a gun, she doesn't want one in the house. What Odile doesn't know, but the viewer does, is that Yvan hides a radio and cuts the phone line, effectively cutting them off from any information about the progress of the war.

So what are Yvan's actual motivations? He is clearly hiding something about his past. Any questions by Odile or Philippe yield evasive answers. He says he is catching rabbits for food when the audience knows he is taking from an abandoned farm. Odile is clearly on alert, but as time passes, she softens toward him. She is teaching him how to read, and confused about her feelings toward him. Yvan declares that he wants to marry her, and she laughs it off. But does she feel toward Yvan like a mother to her son, or a woman towards a lover? Moreover, there is no other adult contact for Odile, and Philippe and Cathy seem to like Yvan, although he does play mind games with them.

Odile's confusion is ably portrayed by Beart, who is only getting better with each role. However, aside from her performance, there is not much to Strayed. Techine's decision to show the viewer some of Yvan's more unscrupulous sides (among other things, he robs corpses), causes people to dislike him more. It makes Odile's sense of wavering seem all the more dangerous, because she doesn't know what the viewer knows. It still seems like a stretch that she would fall for him. Yes, they are in extreme times, and yes, she has no idea if she and her family will live to see another day, but things still seem somewhat arbitrary as their relationship takes a big turn near the end of the film. Strayed is a beautiful film to look at. There is something ominous about the deceptive calmness of the house they are staying in, both from a physically with the war, and mentally with Odile's inner struggle.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 33 minutes, French with English subtitles, Not Rated but contains some violence, language, and sexuality.

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