"The Dry," based on the 2016 book of the same name by Jane Harper, is already one of the highest-grossing Australian films of all-time. Like many other films, it was set for release during the Summer of 2020, but didn't make its Melbourne premiere until last December.
Now arriving state-side, it's time for American audiences to discover what all the well-warranted hype is about.
Set almost entirely in a small town in Australia, we instantly understand how the film gets its name: This portion of Australia has not had a drop of rain in nearly 365 days. This dry, hot, cracked landscape is the setting for a deliciously juicy murder-mystery...the sort of "who-dunnit" that has the audience engaged right from the start, and whose unpredictable twists keep them guessing right up until the end.
Aaron Falk (Eric Bana) is now a Federal Agent, who returns home after a gruesome massacre that took place in his hometown. His childhood best friend, Luke (Martin Dingle Wall), has been murdered, along with Luke's wife and toddler-aged son (a crying newborn was spared). He's asked by the town's Sheriff (Keir O'Donnell) and Luke's mourning parents (Julia Blake and Bruce Spence) to help take a look into the matter, and Agent Falk begrudgingly agrees.
But what sets "The Dry" apart and above is the backstory and depth given to Falk and his somewhat troubling past. As a teenager, a young girl was found dead in a river and while Luke and Aaron were presumably innocent, the rest of the townsfolk had their doubts. Along with the two boys, another girl was with them that day, and when Aaron returns and rekindles his romantic relationship with Gretchen (Genevieve O'Reilly), it forces him to revisit the events of that fateful day from his childhood.
With mysteries like this, the "who, what, when, where and why" are all important, and on all of these fronts, the eventual pay-offs end up being worth the wait. But most importantly, we are made to care about the characters. The small-town sensibilities of the community are wholly relatable. Everything feels organic and natural, from the setting to the dialogue to the different men and women that we're introduced to.
"The Dry" isn't able to rise above certain genre tropes (the village bad-ass and town drunk are probably not the culprits, given how obviously and inherently villainous they're made out to be), but it's a good little film that won't leave you, high and, well, dry.
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery.
Run Time: 1 hour 57 minutes.
Starring: Eric Bana, Genevieve O'Reilly, Keir O'Donnell, John Polson.
Co-Written and Directed by Robert Connolly ("Balibo," "Three Dollars").
"The Dry" is in theaters Friday, May 21st, 2021.
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