Harley-Davidson, leather, tattooed biceps: Ron “Stray Dog” Hall looks like an authentic tough guy. A Vietnam veteran, he runs a trailer park in rural Missouri with his wife, Alicia, who recently immigrated from Mexico. Gradually, a layered image comes into focus of a man struggling to come to terms with his combat experience. When Alicia’s teenage sons arrive, the film reveals a tender portrait of an America outside the mainstream. STRAY DOG is a powerful look at the veteran experience, a surprising love story, and a fresh exploration of what it takes to survive in the hardscrabble heartland.
The film is Debra Granik’s third feature and follow-up to the Oscar-nominated Winter’s Bone. Praise has been literally universal (as of this writing, it boasts a 100 fresh rating at rottentomatoes.com). Writing on Vulture.com, Bilge Ebiri called the film “novelistic in its depth and breathtaking in its humanity.” At the New York Times, A.O. Scott wrote, “STRAY DOG is valuable in many ways — as the sympathetic documentation of a family’s perseverance in hard times; as an example of compassionate cinéma vérité; as a chance to spend time with some very interesting people — but perhaps its greatest virtue lies in its powerful, implicit challenge to the lazy habit of looking at American life through polarized red- and blue-tinted lenses.”