The Strays Ending Explained – who are Abigail and Marvin?

February 23, 2023 (Last updated: 2 weeks ago)
Lori C. 0
Ending Explained, Film, Netflix, Streaming Service

We discuss the ending of the 2023 Netflix film The Strays, which will contain spoilers.

The Strays opens with the protagonist, Cheryl (played by Ashley Madekwe), venting to her sister about her financial struggles. Despite being employed, she needs government assistance to pay her rent. Unhappy with her life, Cheryl packs a small bag, leaves a note saying she’s going to the hairdresser, leaves her brick phone behind as her partner calls, and walks out the door. 

We’re then re-introduced to Cheryl (who now goes by Neve) many years later. She now lives in a predominantly white upper-class village, is married to insurance broker Ian (Justin Salinger), and works as deputy headmaster at the posh private school both her teenage kids, Sebastian (Samuel Paul Small) and Mary (Maria Almeida), attend. Everything about Neve, apart from her skin color, screams upper-class white woman – her accent, the car she drives, the perfectly manicured wigs she wears, and even the gala she puts together to raise money for “unfortunate individuals” in Africa. It’s clear how hard she works to belong when we see her practicing her accent in the mirror. 

Neve’s perfect little life starts crashing down when two young black people, Marvin (Jorden Myrie) and Abigail (Bukky Bakray), enter the town. She’s less than enthused when her husband hires Abigail at his insurance office, and when Marvin gets a job as a janitor at her school, she goes as far as trying to get him sacked. Neve’s paranoia over these two people grows to terrifying levels – she sees them everywhere, thinks they’re out to get her, and has bizarre, even violent outbursts in front of her husband, children, and friends. 

Who are Abigail and Marvin?

Everything falls apart at Neve’s gala when she sees the two strangers and proceeds to have a meltdown in front of them and all her guests. We then learn that Marvin and Abigail are the two children she abandoned nearly two decades ago. The film’s second chapter focuses on Abigail and Marvin, who just arrived in town seeking to reconnect with their mother. After securing their jobs, they approach one of Neve’s children and befriend them. Both abandoned children harbor a (un)healthy dose of resentment towards Mary and Sebastian because they had the privilege of being raised by their mother. 

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After the gala spectacle, Neve asks to meet with Abigail and Marvin, where she briefly apologizes for abandoning them before giving them a check for £20,000 to help them “get back on their feet” and, of course, go back to London. What’s interesting about this scene is how she never asks the two about their lives or whether they need financial assistance from her. Neve claims her previous partner was abusive, which is why she left. But that somehow makes her even more unlikable, as she left behind two innocent children at the mercy of an abusive man. Yet, Marvin takes the check and thanks her for it, giving Neve a false sense of security as she now thinks her troubles are over and she can return to her real family. 

The Strays Ending Explained

The film’s final chapter has Neve’s two abandoned children break into her family home. They weren’t content with the £20,000 she gave them to go away. Upon entering the home, Abigail runs a bath while her brother puts on a fancy bathrobe he got from their hotel and turns the telly on. It takes a while before the family hears the disturbance and wakes up to find the two siblings rummaging through their home. 

Family board games

In surreal scenes, Marvin explains it’s Abi’s birthday and wants to treat the family to Chinese takeout. He also wants to play a friendly game of family Scrabble. His anger is palpable, while Abi seems excited about finally spending time with her mother and siblings. After learning that Neve tried paying off her abandoned kids to coax them into returning to London, Ian asks for a divorce. Neve starts acting like she’s enjoying this bizarre reunion and urges the rest of her family to sit down and play scrabble with Abi and Marvin. 

The game doesn’t last long as Marvin can’t contain his fury for long. He takes poor Ian to his home gym, forcing him to do bench presses while constantly adding more weights to the barbell. Eventually, Ian drops the barbell on his chest, killing him instantly.

READ: Will there be a sequel to The Strays?

Neve shows her true colors

When the Uber Eats man arrives, Neve answers the door and asks the driver to wait while she gets her purse to tip him. She goes upstairs to look for her wallet, finds it, then reiterates to Abi how sorry she feels about the situation and promises a meaningful talk during dinner. Neve then walks out the door without looking back, mirroring the film’s first scene when she leaves her previous life. 

When Marvin returns to the living room and realizes she’s gone, it’s too late. The movie ends with the four siblings looking out the window as their mother abandons them. Again. 

Throughout the runtime, Neve treats her two children with Ian as extensions of the perfectly posh life she’s built. They’re not allowed to be individuals, nor are they allowed to explore their black heritage. And the ending shows she never cared for Sebastian and Mary any more than she did for Marvin and Abigail when she first walked out on them.

It’s an ambiguous way to end the movie, and the question remains: Are Mary and Sebastian in danger, or does Neve’s cowardly escape catalyze the four siblings to finally forge a genuine bond? I think it’s the latter, as all four children are victims of one uncaring mother by the end. 

What did you think of the ending of the 2023 Netflix film The Strays? Comment below.

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