TL;DR – A film that captivates you in the first frame and never lets you go throughout the runtime.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid to see this film.
The Dry Review –
The murder-mystery who-done-it genre is one that can captivate me as we see the mystery unfold or frustrate me as the film throws in silly narrative choices to pad out the run time. Today we get to look at a movie that does the first as it brings you into this world and does not let you go until the end.
So to set the scene, we open with long pans over a dry and parched landscape full of dust and brown. When in the background we can hear a baby crying, we see it in its crib, but something is amiss and as the camera pans out there is blood everywhere. A couple of weeks later we are in Melbourne where we discover there has been a murder-suicide with a father killing his wife and son but leaving the baby behind. Aaron Falk (Eric Bana) is now an investigator for the Federal Police, but he grew up in the town and knew the husband Luke (Martin Dingle Wall) as they were childhood friends. A letter compels him to return for the funeral, but coming back to town is harder for Aaron because of his past and the suspicious death of one of his friends that caused him and his family to flee all those years ago.
One of the first things that The Dry does well is set the tone for the rest of the film. The fact that it is a murder-suicide you immediately become uncomfortable, and you see that same discomfort in the people of the town as they try to process what happened. This awkward feeling permeates the film because one of the answers that could be found is that Luke did everything he was alleged to do. You want it not to be true, yet that is the most plausible reality. So even when Grant (Matt Nable) is, let’s say, indelicate at the funeral, he also like has a point.
The setting also establishes the tone. I have made some light-hearted ribbing about the use of drone photography in Australian Cinema, and indeed, we open with a drone shot over the landscape. Here it is about setting the tone of the film, you feel the strain the town is under, but you also see it in every frame. It is also a way of differentiating what happened in the past and what is happening in the present. The juxtaposition of Ellie (BeBe Bettencourt) drowning in a river and Luke dying in a dried-out lakebed is at the core of the film. More than this, the dry is incorporated as an integral part of the narrative that you see throughout the film.
While the tone and setting are important, what then elevates this film is the cast. At the forefront is, of course, Eric Bana as our investigator. You feel his drive to find answers for his friend’s parents, but then there is also trepidation about digging up the past. Because we see the past events out of order, you always feel that Aaron could be an unreliable narrator, putting a shade on all his actions. The supporting cast is also up for the challenge. Keir O’Donnell is playing local police constable Greg Raco, who struggles with being the one who found the bodies but is also a little enamoured with the Federal Police officer in his small down. Miranda Tapsell is also fantastic in this film. She is only in a couple of scenes but commands your attention every moment she is on screen.
It is hard to talk about the narrative in a film like this, without getting into spoilers, but I will do my best to be vague. The film does a great job of organically creating several suspects in both the current murder and the one set in the past. While I had worked out the ending before the reveal, I still was not entirely sure, which is up to the excellent writing. There were some moments in the film that I found compelling like the school memorial, which cemented the town’s loss more than anything. I also liked the interplay between the nostalgia for the past and the reality that actually happened.
In the end, do we recommend The Dry? Absolutely. We get off to a strong start in 2021 with its compelling narrative, persuasive tone and setting, as well as some sublime acting. However, I won’t say that this is a particularly entertaining film, but it was compelling from start to finish. If you liked The Dry, I would also recommend to you The Dressmaker.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Dry
Directed by – Robert Connolly
Screenplay by – Robert Connolly & Harry Cripps
Based on –The Dry by Jane Harper
Music by – Peter Raeburn
Cinematography by – Stefan Duscio
Edited by – Alexandre de Franceschi & Nick Meyers
Production/Distribution Companies – Made Up Stories, Film Victoria, Screen Australia & Roadshow Films
Starring – Eric Bana, Genevieve O’Reilly, Sam Corlett, Joe Klocek, Claude Scott-Mitchell, BeBe Bettencourt, Joe Klocek, Julia Blake, James Frecheville, Matt Nable, John Polson, Jeremy Lindsay Taylor, Eddie Baroo, Keir O’Donnell, Miranda Tapsell, Renee Lim, Martin Dingle Wall, Bessie Holland, William Zappa, Nick Farnell & Francine McAsey
Rating – Australia: MA15+;