Robert Connolly’s latest venture, The Dry, is a quintessentially Australian film with a compelling storyline that survives patchy acting and the leaps of faith demanded by the plot.
A murder-mystery set in an arid Australian landscape, The Dry tells the story of a man returning home to bury an old friend, the suspect in a violent murder-suicide. The film revolves around Aaron Falk (Eric Bana), a former resident in the town, who upon returning, finds a suspicious death from his youth explored in parallel with the crime that brought him back. The characters from his past are still very much there, with feelings, animosity, and secrets, all nurtured.
The landscape is beautiful, and the cinematography is expansive. The crunch of dry leaves and churning of tires in red dirt brings the country clearly into focus. Australia sets itself up perfectly as the blank, dry canvas upon which Falk lays bare his past. Despite him being a police officer, there is a foreboding sense of lawlessness in the town, and the wilderness of rural Australia is emphasised well. The suspense is high; anyone seems as though they could be in coalition. The motivations are gradually made clear, and the audience is left placing bets as to the culprits, while tension and suspicion swirl atmospherically through the movie.
Bana’s performance inspires sympathy, but the movie’s insistence in exploring so many different characters’ interpersonal relationships leaves no doubt that this film is an adaptation of a book. There are too many storylines and relationships to develop fully in the 1hr 57min running time. The film could’ve been distilled so as to fully flesh out a few characters, and leave the others as role-players in the periphery. That being said, the pace of the movie is strong. It moves along briskly, and you follow – as does Falk – the morsels of mystery that are laid out meticulously.
The Dry stands solidly as an entertaining murder-mystery. The direction is good, and the acting is, for the most part, decent, but the film is, ultimately, surface deep. While it broaches themes that certainly warrant a greater exposé, the movie’s ambition curtails its effectiveness in dealing with any of them.
Based on the book ‘The Dry’ written by Jane Harper.