The Dry


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Dry
"There's also enough mystery retained to allow a viewer the satisfaction of perhaps being just a moment or two ahead of the film's revelations without making them either overly obvious or obscure."

While much is made of the desire to be surprised by cinema, less is said about the secret charms of a well-packaged slice of the familiar. Robert Connolly's potboiler murder mystery - adapted in partnership with Harry Kripps from the novel by Jane Harper - is just that, a tale that unfolds with elegance across two time periods and which is given additional polish by strong performances and an eye for the natural landscapes of Australia.

Eric Bana brings a lonely complexity to the character of Aaron Falk, a big city cop who finds himself returning to the remote farming community where he grew up after his old friend Luke (Martin Dingle Wall) apparently kills his wife Karen (Rosana Lockhart), eldest child and himself in a perplexing murder-suicide, although Luke's mother Barb (Julia Blake) and father Gerry (Bruce Spence) don't buy it. The river has run dry but old wounds as still as fresh as ever, with questions hanging over the community over the drowning of another friend of Aaron's, Ellie Deacon (BeBe Bettencourt) when they were just teenagers.

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Water may be in short supply but the town is stewing in its own juice of secrets and lies, with Connolly judiciously weaving in sun-dappled flashbacks of that summer years ago when Aaron (Joe Klocek) hung out constantly with Ellie, Luke (Sam Corlett) and their additional friend Gretchen (Claude Scott-Mitchell), who has never left the community (and who is played, in adulthood, by Genevieve O'Reilly). "When you've been lying so long, it becomes second nature," says one character, encapsulating the film's themes, although what Aaron has lied about will only gradually be revealed.

Connolly lets us feel the heat, not just the pressure put on Aaron by old friends and enemies, including Ellie's brother (Matt Nable) and father (William Zappa) but also the warmth of potential romance between Gretchen and Aaron. There's also enough mystery retained to allow a viewer the satisfaction of perhaps being just a moment or two ahead of the film's revelations without making them either overly obvious or obscure. The performances feel as lived-in as the landscape, with Bana and O'Reilly giving a sharp sense of people who are themselves parched by carrying anxieties and unresolved feelings from the past. The cinematography from Stefan Duscio finds contrast in the wide-angle shots of the drought ravaged landscape in contrast to the looser, more intimate verdant scenes by the river that once ran through Aaron's childhood, while Peter Raeburn's score adds atmosphere without intrusion.

Bana often gets served poor roles by Hollywood, but his return to Australia proves as fruitful as his previous homeland outing in Romulus, My Father, which bodes well for the upcoming Blueback, which will again be directed by Connolly.

The supporting cast are also well drawn, including the local headteacher (John Polson), who came to the community after his own traumatic experience and local cop Raco (Keir O'Donnell), who is struggling to sleep after finding the latest batch of bodies. If Connolly leans a little heavily into melodrama as the film offers a flurry of revelation in its final act, he nevertheless ensures that both stories find resolution with a satisfying snap as the pieces finally settle into place.

Reviewed on: 31 Oct 2021
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A big city cop returns to his childhood farming community after a murder-suicide and finds himself haunted by his own past secrets.

Director: Robert Connolly

Writer: Harry Cripps, Robert Connolly, based on the novel by Jane Harper

Starring: Eric Bana, Genevieve O'Reilly, Keir O'Donnell, John Polson, Julia Blake, Bruce Spence, William Zappa, Matt Nable, James Frecheville, Jeremy Lindsay Taylor, Joe Klocek, BeBe Bettencourt, Claude Scott-Mitchell, Sam Corlett, Miranda Tapsell

Year: 2020

Runtime: 117 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Australia, US


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