Although set in 1940 during Germany’s early occupation of France, André Téchiné’s beautifully ambiguous, exquisitely underplayed drama Strayed has less to do with the events and moral choices of the era that continue to shape French identity than with the timeless psychological effects of finding oneself unmoored from the familiar. Fleeing Paris and German bombs, a stunned young widow (played by template-for-stunned-but-strong-Gallic-heroines Emmanuelle Béart) and her two children meet up with a wily, illiterate 17-year-old young man (Gaspard Ulliel) of shady provenance but indispensable quick wit and natural charm. He finds them an abandoned house when they’re lost in the woods and forages for food; she finds him just this side of frightening, that side of alluring.
Téchiné (”Alice and Martin”) inserts a few establishing shots of ”war,” but it’s the tug of conflicting desires he specializes in. The wiliest enemy, he lets us feel in this spare, controlled character study, is sometimes not an outsider at all, but resides within.