2021, R, 117 mins.
Eric Bana as Aaron Falk / Genevieve O'Reilly as Gretchen Schoner / Keir O'Donnell as Greg Raco / John Polson as Scott Whitlam / Matt Nable as Grant Dow / Eddie Baroo as McMurdo / Martin Dingle-Wall as Luke Hadler / Bruce Spence as Gerry HadlerDirected by Robert Connolly, written by Harry Cripps and Connolly, based on the novel by Jane Harper
Very few mystery thrillers as of late use their environment as a character of importance in their own right as well as Robert Connelly's THE DRY, which takes its name from a particular area of scorched dry land in Kiewarra, a farming community outside of Melbourne, Australia. The film contains eerie echoes of the very recent and real wildfires that ravaged the nation, and its the environmental desolation presented here that bares down heavily on already troubled souls that figure heavily into the multiple generations spanning narrative.
On a basic level,
THE DRY contains familiar elements to genre fans - small town/native born
resident (now in law enforcement) makes a return home to investigate a
murder case that opens up many past wounds he would rather have forever
sealed - but what separates Connolly's effort above others is how patient
it is with the unraveling of its multiple mysteries presented.
That, at it refreshingly marks a return of star Eric Bana back to
his Aussie feature film roots (his first made in his country in over a
decade-plus), which reminds us of the quiet power and conviction that he
can bring to complex roles.
THE DRY definitely offers up Bana one of his finest and most memorable
roles in many years as Federal Agent Aaron Falk, who was once a citizen of
Kiewarra, but left under questionable circumstances twenty years earlier
and has never returned since.
He's driven back to his hometown after a long self-imposed absence
by the death of one of his childhood friends in Luke, who appears to have
committed murder-suicide with his wife and oldest child (only the baby was
What really complicates matters immensely for Aaron is that he was
romantically involved with a young woman back in the day named Ellie, who
died under horrible and still unsolved circumstances when they were
teenage friends with Luke.
Nearly everyone in the town suspected Aaron as the main suspect,
but no tangible evidence suggested that he did the deed.
Unfortunately for him, unwavering allegations dogged him for his
adult life, which precipitated his fleeing of Kiewarra because of all of
the hostility he received...and as he soon discovers upon his return,
Aaron wants to pay respect to his dead friend, but his investigative
instincts obviously begin to kick into overdrive when he discovers the
heinous nature of Luke's crime.
Aaron is coaxed by the deceased's parents to stay longer in
Kiewarra and find out what actually happened to Luke that prompted him to
commit such an atrocity.
He teams up with the local sergeant in Greg Raco (Keir
), and within no time some evidence doesn't hold up to unequivocally make
Luke guilty (like the fact that bullets found in the bodies don't match
any guns he owned).
Aaron then takes it largely upon himself to deep dive into this
case and find whatever clue possible to nab the actual guilty suspect, and
in the process has to deal with the all of the townsfolk that are still
bitter about his own possible link to the death of Ellie all those years
even manages to come in contact with and reacquaint himself with Gretchen
(Genevieve O'Reilly), who was once in the inner circle of friends with
Aaron, Luke, and Ellie.
Aaron is also dealt with the crushing blow of how badly his
homeland has been destroyed by crippling, years-long drought, which has
made the farming community on heightened edged.
geography of this place is of utmost significance in THE DRY, and the way
that Connolly uses the land as a catalyst for memories (both good and bad)
and heartache (both past and present) is noteworthy.
The film opens with footage of the wind and sand storm plagued land
of endless dried fields, so much so that it makes one think you're about
to watch a post-apocalyptic thriller versus a modern day set murder
There is an underlining element of environmental decay and death
that taints this film, and the drought has a demoralizing affect on the
people here, which is not aided by this community now having to deal with
the horrible murder-suicide of Luke's family.
There's depression on multiple fronts in THE DRY, and its evocation
of the harsh immediacy of its time and place is kind of masterful.
One scene in particular is haunting.
It involves Aaron returning to the river that he, Luke, Ellie, and
Gretchin swam in during their adolescence, but there's no water to be had
What's depressingly left is a vast hole in the ground...and not
It's no wonder why all of the characters that populate this story
are on edge in some form or another.
And as for the
multiple mysteries contained within the narrative itself?
Connolly takes full advantage of this multi-tiered and intriguing
premise, which not only has Aaron having to solve the present day murder
case, but also has to get to the bottom of what happened to Ellie two
decades previously and, hopefully in the process, clear his name forever.
As a result, THE DRY offers up two timelines that coalesce
together, the one in the present and flashbacks involving Aaron and his
friends in the past that builds up to Ellie's tragic demise.
At first, these grainy flashback sequences are a bit abruptly
thrown in, which leads to some initial confusion as to what's happening.
Yet, as the film unfolds and finds its grove, these transitions
between now and then become more fleshed out and clearly relayed, which
introduces us to these characters in their youth and with their lives
fully ahead of them.
Editors Nick Meyers and Alexandre de Franceschi deserve props for
making this potentially distracting juxtaposition work better as the film
gains story momentum and
It's also crucial to getting into Aaron's fragile headspace to
learn what makes him tick and what past demons lurk in his closet.
I've always found
Bana to be an actor that usually is not a part of the larger conversation
of our great understated performers, but he sure does bring it in THE DRY
playing up to this man's grim determination to right multiple wrongs while
also showing him as someone deeply burdened with ample emotional baggage.
Bana is the right kind of nonchalant, but wholly focused actor to
make Aaron a densely layered and complex protagonist, and he's supported
by a wonderfully assembled supporting cast, all playing memorably
eccentric townsfolk that either have it in for Aaron or want to help him
in his pursuits.
I especially liked Daniel Frederiksen as the town doctor and James
Frecheville as the school principle, not to mention William Zappa as
Ellie's eternally spiteful father and Matt Nable as Ellie's verbally
hostile cousin; neither of them take kindly to Aaron's return back home
and see him as a threat to stability.
And then there's Reilly as one of Aaron's old friends that may or
may not be on the level with him as he tries to find out what's going down
with the increasingly shady looking murder.
THE DRY sets up her relationship with Aaron as a potential romantic
one, but Connolly has more tricks up his sleeves that allows for these
characters to not simply go down a browbeaten and predictable path.