Review by Sean Boelman
Co-written and directed by Sonejuhi Sinha, Stray Dolls is a new crime-thriller hoping to breathe life into a worn genre. Essentially a feminist take on the Bonnie and Clyde tale, Sinha’s film has some ambitious goals, and meets some of the standards it sets for itself, but ultimately feels like it is missing something.
The movie follows two housekeepers as their petty crimes become increasingly dangerous and out of control. Admittedly, the film’s biggest issue is that it is rather predictable. The script by Sinha and Charlotte Rabate offers the promise of being more than just another crime thriller, yet it falls back on tropes a bit too often for it to stand out above the pack.
Perhaps the most interesting thing that the movie has to offer is an exploration of the immigrant experience in America. Sinha and her co-writer Charlotte Rabate are obviously trying to say something about the exploitation of immigrant labor, but that subtext is largely lost in a film that often bites off more than it can chew.
Part of the movie’s issue is that it is difficult to get invested in these characters, with the exception of the protagonist. Sinha and Rabate’s world is by no means welcoming, and as a result, it can be hard to feel pity for these characters. Of course, the protagonist is involved due to no fault of her own, so her arc is sufficient, but otherwise, the film lacks dynamics.
Lead actress Geetanjali Thapa lends the movie the emotional subtlety and nuance that it does have. Her performance provides a much-needed grounded feel to the film that it wouldn’t otherwise have. The supporting cast has some interesting players, but as is the case with much of the rest of the movie, they are frequently over-the-top.
Sinha does bring an undeniable visual style to the film, and that is the most exciting thing about her directorial voice. Even though the movie does fall victim to being conventional in terms of narrative, it is much less conventional in its aesthetics, and as a result, audiences will be able to stay invested in the film in some form.
The pacing of the movie is also relatively strong. Unfortunately, the predictable nature of the film does lower the stakes to a certain extent, but Sinha’s strong grasp of slow-burn pacing allows the movie to move along consistently. Sinha mounts the tension to a climax that, while obvious, has a solid impact nevertheless.
Stray Dolls is definitely a film that is stronger in what it hopes to do than what it is able to pull off, but there’s a lot of good here that makes it worth a watch. Sonejuhi Sinha is clearly a very talented filmmaker, and it will be exciting to see what she does next.
Stray Dolls hits VOD on April 10.