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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Review: Stray Dolls

Director: Sonejuhi Sinha
Screenplay: Charlotte Rabate and Sonejuhi Sinha
Year: 2020

Riz is a young Indian woman that after being a gang member and survived through crime, decides to go to the United States to remake her life. Riz starts to work as a housekeeper in an old motel and figures out that in her current situation it would be almost impossible to achieve her American dream of becoming wealthy, successful, and be able to help her family. With the influence of her roommate Dallas, both fall into a spiral of crime that becomes increasingly dangerous, all with the goal of escaping this place. 

Even with the intention of remaking her life far from the criminal life she had in her country, the clientele that the motel attracts and its staff don’t help her much to overcome her situation. Riz’s roommate is a young woman prone to drug use and traffic, something she does with her boyfriend Jimmy, who is the motel owner’s son. With a constant flow of drug dealers and criminals to the motel and finding herself trapped in a low paying job, Riz’s reality takes her again to the path of crime, which seems to be the only one to offer an escape and in which she knows her way around. 

The underlying theme of this movie is evident since the get-go. An immigrant that travels to the United States with the goal of working and remaking her life in a legal and decent way stumbles upon the harsh reality of the fallacy that is the American dream and how many immigrants are treated in this country. From the motel’s owner, who promises to get her an American passport but that ends up shredding her Indian passport so that she has no options of going to work somewhere else, to her roommate who gets her into her criminal life, it’s easy to see the commentary of how immigrants are exploited offered by writers Charlotte Rabate y Sonejuhi Sinha in their first effort in a full-length feature and Sinha also in her first effort directing. 

Both Rabate and Sinha do a great job of making their message clear but are not as successful in making their plot clear. In many instances the actions that the characters make feel forced and only accomplish the function of moving the plot and take them to a precarious situation that keeps the story moving, as well as emphasize the topic of interest. Similarly, how the scenes are stringed together feels also forced and constantly lack coherence. 

The construction of the characters and the work of the cast is essential in making interesting and credible characters that are the unifying thread of the plot. The two protagonist girls are interpreted by Geetanjali Thapa (“Liar’s Dice”) as Riz and Olivia DeJonge (“The Visit”) as Dallas and both do a good job, although this last one missed the mark with her horrible southern accent, and they manage to get the viewer to sympathize with them and their situation, and helps to justify, to a certain extent, their actions. Their characters feel well-crafted and with enough background and ambitions to understand their motivations and the arc to which they go through. 

“Stray Dolls” is a clear message about the American dream and exposes the harsh reality that immigrants live through in the United States. After going over certain obstacles in her life, an Indian immigrant abandons her country to remake her life in the United States to find another set of obstacles that propels her to take on again her criminal life. A clear and resonant message well carried by the characters but hindered by the clumsy and forced way in which every situation is connected.

Stray Dolls is distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films and is available on digital platforms since April 10, 2020, For more information visit their webpage

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