The Dry is an Australian crime thriller, an adaptation of the bestselling novel by Jane Harper. Starring Eric Bana, this drama beautifully (and sadly) highlights the devastating effects of droughts in Australia, whilst also managing to portray a compelling double murder mystery spanning decades.
Bana is Aaron Falk, a federal police officer living in Melbourne who returns to his small hometown of Kiewarra following the death of an old friend. Luke (Martin Dingle Wall) was the apparent perpetrator in a murder-suicide, where he killed his wife and young son at home, before turning the gun on himself. Falk arrives at the funeral and is asked by Luke’s parents (Julia Blake and Bruce Spence) to investigate as they refuse to believe their son committed these crimes. However, as Falk spends more time in the town, the locals accuse and harass him about the unsolved murder of a teenage girl, Ellie Deacon (BeBe Bettencourt), whom Falk was friends with and implicated in her death.
The film follows Falk as he joins local police Sergeant Raco (Keir O’Donnell) to revisit the crime scene and question the locals about Luke and his family’s lives, including a local uncooperative farmer Jamie (James Frecheville), the doctor (Daniel Frederiksen) and the school principal Whitlam (John Polson). As Falk digs into town life, we see flashbacks of his own experience as a teenager with the death of Ellie and the truth revealed slowly across the course of the film, with both himself and Luke lying to the police about their whereabouts. Back in the current day, Falk is harassed by Ellie’s now elderly father (William Zappa) and brother Grant (Matt Nable), who are convinced he had something to do with her death. Falk also reconnects with Gretchen (Genevieve Reilly), an old friend of both his and Ellie’s, as he attempts to discover the truth behind Luke’s crimes and also reveal what really happened to Ellie decades ago.
I had heard nothing about this film until it popped up as a new premiere on Sky, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with how this turned out. Director Robert Connolly has made an incredibly striking looking film that not only looks and feels extremely authentic, but that also packs in a very intriguing story. The aerial shots of arid Australian country are rather disturbing to see, especially when the film flashes back to the greener, non-drought times of Falk’s youth. However, these shots fit in well with the dark criminal nature of the story. It’s almost like Connolly is telling two stories here – a murder mystery and a subtler (yet still hard-hitting) tale of the impact the drought has on Australian communities, and it’s impressive how well these two stories fit together.
The main crime drama too is very well executed. Interweaving the flashbacks with the present-day murders is a great mechanism, and works well to propel both stories but without giving away too much on either narrative. The twist endings to both stories were to me surprisingly unpredictable, and while there is an overuse of slow motion, each feels like a satisfying reveal. The resolution of Ellie’s decades-old death was also very emotional to the point where I almost teared up myself, and this was all due to Eric Bana’s understated yet brilliant performance that is evident throughout the film. He brings sadness and grief to Falk that is obvious yet never over the top, with an amazing ability to hold our attention in every scene that he’s in. Falk is undoubtedly an intriguing character but in the wrong hands he could’ve turned out a lot differently, however Bana plays him to perfection. He’s helped by a good supporting cast, none of whom put a foot wrong, and a script that also allows a few unexpected moments of dark humour.
The only downside to The Dry is that it is very slow-paced. For the most part, the scenes are engaging enough that this isn’t a major problem, however a couple of times during the film I did find myself wishing it would speed up a little. But aside from this, The Dry is a very good crime thriller that brilliantly pairs an intriguing murder mystery with a commentary on drought in Australia.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!