It’s refreshing to see a gay film this frankly erotic (if I could sit through Blue is the Warmest Color, straight people can sit through this), and it’s effective at creating a sinister atmosphere, but there comes a turn in the story after which I didn’t buy a moment that followed. The protagonist’s decisions ceased to make sense to me, and I kept waiting for the film to reconcile that, but it never did, so I left frustrated and unsatisfied.
I was challenged about my immediate impression by a viewer who approached the film as a metaphor for the choices confronting gay men. It may be worth another look to explore that reading, but I subscribe to Roger Ebert‘s notion that if you have to ask what something symbolizes, it doesn’t. That’s not to say “If it goes over your head it doesn’t exist,” but rather that you shouldn’t have to work so hard to identify symbolism, and shouldn’t try. It’s either there for you or it isn’t.
I’m not personally familiar with the specific milieu Stranger is depicting, but its effectiveness as metaphor might have been a moot point for me anyway once I ceased to believe the main character; when the text doesn’t work for you, is there much value in the subtext?
I think something needs to work on the face of it before I can start to look underneath.