"I didn’t expect the last act," admits The Strays star Ashley Madekwe about Netflix’s new twist-filled thriller. Directed by Nathaniel Martello-White and inspired by films like Us and Hidden, the movie follows Neve (played by Madekwe) whose privileged life begins to unravel when two figures from her past turn up.
Split across different acts and character perspectives, the truth of what Neve has been hiding slowly unfolds before culminating in a very tense final sequence. Filled with violence, psychological mind games, and an incredible set piece, The Strays ending will keep you guessing right until the credits roll.
When GamesRadar+ sat down with The Strays actors Madekwe and Jorden Myrie, who plays the mysterious Marvin, we dove into the final act in a spoiler-filled chat. So if you’ve already seen the Netflix movie, we’ll be dissecting some of the major twists and turns, as well as their own interpretations of the slightly ambiguous ending.
If you’re still here, then you’ll know that the two new arrivals in Neve’s town, Marvin and Abigail (Bukky Bakray), are actually her children from a previous abusive relationship. Determined to be a family again, or at least force Neve to acknowledge who they are, they turn up and tell her husband Ian (Justin Salinger) and two new children the truth.
After a tense confrontation at Neve’s fundraiser, she tries to buy them off, giving them money and apologizing for abandoning them. However, Marvin and Abigail have something else in mind. The pair head to Neve’s family home for a tense stand-off. Under the guise of wanting to have a family dinner together, the tension ratchets as it becomes clear that they have no intention of letting the family leave.
The house slowly floods from a bath tap that has been left running, as Marvin brings Ian into the gym room and tortures him. Realizing there’s no clear escape, Neve slips out of the front door leaving her family behind once again.
Part of nailing the tension of the final scene, according to Myrie and Madekwe, came from how it was filmed. "I think the most surprising thing was how well that last scene came together," Madekwe explains. "We didn’t cut at all, every take was one long take. So we change perspective, so sometimes we do it from my point of view or your point of view, or try and get everybody in but every take was a continuous take so everybody was always on."
Myrie explains how the choice "definitely" helped them get the right tone. "You were naturally going through every emotional beat," he adds. "It was the only way to really do it."
Of course, this did come with some practical difficulties as the set was slowly flooded with water in each take, meaning they’d have to do a huge reset after the cameras stopped rolling every time. Despite the practical challenges, the actors cannot speak highly enough of the process.
"I was in boots and waterproof socks so I enjoyed it," Myrie sheepishly admits. "I was running around in the water. And because you're shooting it, it’s like we're performing like a mini play." Madekwe echoes the sentiment. "It was completely a dance," she continues. "We rehearsed with everybody, not just the actors but all of the crew rehearsed with us. They did so well because it was such a huge reset and we managed to do it several times. Empty the room, dry the room. Reset the broken props, clean up my vomit, the blood. Everyone was so focused, it was a tight, tight operation."
The final few moments of the movie leave a little room for ambiguity as Neve slips out the door, not looking back. However, in the original script, this was initially even less clear.
"We went through different iterations of it," Madekwe recalls. "The ending was less black and white in the original script but I always inferred that the ending that is there now, that was what was happening, with me leaving. We did that in so many different ways. We did it with a wig, without a wig, change of costume, and I think the way we went was the right way. We left a little room for ambiguity but not really. She’s gone, she’s out of there, she did what she had to do."
And even though we don’t see what happens to Marvin after Neve leaves, Myrie has his own ideas. "We talked about this a lot, what would happen next, where would they go?" he explains. "Again, I think it’s interesting, resurfacing that pain, the same thing happened, except he’s probably a bit more mentally switched on to realize what’s happening. Marvin is the first one that realizes what happens as well. So yeah, what happens next? It’s a big question! I think Marvin lets it be known, we’re family now, so…"
"So you don’t think you chase her?," Madekwe wonders. "No, I think she’s gone," Myrie laughs. "She’s like you are not finding me again."
The Strays is out on Netflix now. For what else to watch, check out our guides to the best Netflix movies and the best Netflix shows.