A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Who is this Yvan, this boy with the shaved head who has crawled out of the mud to lead them to safety? And why should she trust him? Odile (Emmanuelle Beart) is a bourgeois Parisian woman with two children and no way to protect them, and Yvan (Gaspard Ulliel) has a toughness that is reassuring and at the same time menacing. She really has no choice but to follow him into the forest, after Nazi planes have strafed and bombed the column of refugees streaming south from Paris.
It is 1940, and all of the certainties of Odile's life have evaporated. She is a pretty widow in her late 30s, a teacher, who fled Paris and joined the flight from the Germans with her 13-year-old son Philippe and her daughter Cathy, who is 7. Her children trust her, but she doesn't trust herself, because her experience and values are irrelevant in this sudden war. "It's every man for himself," someone shouts on the road, not originally but cogently, as bullets kill some and spare others.
Yvan is tough and sure of himself, and her instincts as a teacher tell her he is dangerous. The teenager Philippe is frightened but more realistic; he believes they need this strange young man. Yvan has a sweet side and seems to want to help them; there is perhaps even the suggestion that he needs this family to replace one he lost, and he needs this chance to be helpful and competent. Or perhaps the fact that Philippe secretly bribed him with his father's watch persuaded him to stay; we never know for sure what he's thinking.
"Strayed" begins and ends with facts of war, but it is really a film about the nature of male and female, about middle-class values and those who cannot afford them, about how helpless we can be when the net of society is broken. The French director Andre Techine, no sentimentalist, creates a separate world for his four characters, and the war goes on elsewhere.