Stray Parent Guide
This movie reveals as much about the people of Istanbul as it does about the strays who roam their city.
Parent Movie Review
Have you ever wondered how your dog sees the world? If you have, you’re going to want to watch Stray. This documentary can’t provide us with all the information dogs gain from their remarkable sense of smell, but by following a group of three stray dogs through the streets of Istanbul and filming at their eye level, this production tries to capture their point of view.
Director Elizabeth Lo spent two years filming strays in Turkey, mostly in the capital city of Istanbul. Turks have a relationship with free range canines that will seem unusual to those of us who live in the West. It’s against the law to euthanize or capture stray dogs so over 100,000 of them roam the streets. Three of those dogs – Zeytin, Nazar, and Kartal are the focus of the film.
Stray is an unusual film, meandering about at a pooch’s pace. It slows down as the dogs nap on the sidewalk or street or simply stare out across the park. It picks up its pace as they roam through the city, weaving in and out of traffic, wandering through a political protest, or playing with homeless Syrian teens.
I’m not a dog person, so I must admit that I didn’t find the film gripping. But what did interest me is what the movie reveals about the people of Istanbul. This is a tale of constant small kindnesses. From the pats the animals receive from passersby to the food they are routinely given by homeless kids, construction workers, sanitation workers, and others, this is a story about people with a sense of collective responsibility for their city’s stray dogs. Compared to North America, where dogs are usually caught and sometimes euthanized, the people of Istanbul provide a safety net for the canines who run free in their city.
As I watched the movie, the question I asked myself is, “Who is going to watch Stray?” Dog lovers who relish spending over an hour watching dogs parade across their screen. Cinema buffs who want to marvel at the dog’s eye view of the world. Viewers who appreciate getting a sense of place that moves beyond tourist-y photo spots. As for a broader audience? I don’t think Stray is going to find a home with the general moviegoing public. There’s no plot, the film moves slowly, and scenes of glue-sniffing teens and mating dogs make this documentary unsuitable for kids. In addition, the frequent eye level shots of dogs’ backsides will have nine year olds snorting with laughter and making butt jokes throughout the film, if they haven’t already wandered off to find a more exciting distraction. Scenes of mutts defecating followed by close ups of their feces are likely to be off-putting for viewers of all ages. If, however, you love dogs and want to experience their zen view of the world, Stray could be a relaxing way to zone out at the end of a frazzled human day.Directed by Elizabeth Lo. Running time: 72 minutes. Theatrical release March 5, 2021. Updated March 2, 2021
Watch the trailer for Stray
Rating & Content Info
Why is Stray rated Not Rated? Stray is rated Not Rated by the MPAA
Violence: A dog chases a cat up a tree. Political protesters march and chant in the street. There are scenes of dogs fighting.
Sexual Content: Dogs have sex on the sidewalk; people make jokes about consent.
Profanity: There are a handful of scatological curses, a crude anatomical term, and a sexual expletive in the film.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Homeless teens sniff glue repeatedly and are often shown stoned. Adults are seen smoking.
Page last updated March 2, 2021
Stray Parents' Guide
How are stray dogs treated in your community? Do you think it’s the right way to deal with these animals?
If you want to learn more about how strays are treated in Istanbul, you can read these articles.
The New York Times: A New Deal for Turkey’s Homeless Dogs
Tripping Over the World: Meet the Remarkably Nice Street Dogs of Istanbul
For more information about the filming of Stray and the issues explored in the film, check out this interview with director Elizabeth Lo.
Related home video titles:
A pampered cocker spaniel falls for a streetwise mongrel in Disney’s animated classic, Lady and the Tramp. Dogs come to the rescue of their fellow canines who are being pursued by a demented villainess in 101 Dalmatians.
How did humans domesticate dogs? Alpha suggests one possible story when a boy befriends a wolf 20,000 years ago in Ice Age Europe.
There is an entire genre of a-boy-and-his-dog movies. Old Yeller, with its tearjerking tale, is a classic of the type.