Not quite ready for prime time
by Martin Hafer
The idea behind Astray is incredibly original and important, and it hits very close to home for me. Decades ago, I was a social worker and later a mental health counselor — much like the central character Tyler in the film. Because of my experiences, I could easily understand and relate to a guy who is anxious to help others but who needs to take better care of himself. Believe me, there are many caregivers like Tyler who are great people but who are so vulnerable because of their own issues. Listening to folks’ pain and problems each work day can be incredibly draining and thankless. Heck, that’s the reason I changed careers and soon found teaching much easier and more rewarding.
So this is where the story begins: Tyler is a burned out but decent guy who wants to fix people. He’s very vulnerable and his life revolves too much around his work. As a result, when he learns about a homeless boy hanging out near his friend’s home, he immediately wants to fix the situation instead of doing what he’s legally obliged to do … to notify Children’s Services. Slowly he manages to gain the kid’s trust and what happens next is extremely difficult to believe and I won’t say more because I don’t want to ruin the film if you decide to watch it.
The story idea was great and I applaud the filmmakers for this. As for the rest of the film, it could stand improvement–mostly because the folks in the movie have extremely limited experience. The acting is occasionally poor and the overall production seems almost like watching community theater. This isn’t meant as a major criticism. But like many early efforts the film is very rough. I do see a lot of promise, however, and would like to see more from these people. With time and experience it should help to smooth out many of the rough spots. Worth seeing, particularly if you are a mental health worker, but also a film with some flaws that make it difficult at times to believe…such as a 15-year-old character who looks as if he’s 25 as well as a plot twist that really seems too crazy to believe.