By: Laurie Coker
A dismal, drought-ravaged Australian countryside provides the backdrop for director Robert Connolly’s tense, haunting crime drama The Dry, starring Eric Bana. A slow-burning fuse of a film beautifully directed and perfectly acted, The Dry captivates in the depth of its characters and the pain-staking detail of the telling. Balancing a perfect blend of setting, characters, pace, and tone, Connolly takes a tried and tired premise and manages a fresh and intense story.
Federal police officer Aaron Falk (Bana) returns home to a small rural town with a sorted past. A double murder-suicide, supposedly committed by an old friend, brings Aaron home. Decades earlier, he left town as a teenager when suspicions swirled about his involvement in the murder of a girl from school. The town’s folk have long memories but in spite of accusations and prejudice, Falk agrees to investigate the recent horrific events. Falk knows he walks on the edge with towns
Connolly and cowriter Harry Cripps weave together an intriguing story that brings the town’s sorted past into the present case of murder. It’s two stories in one and yet, cleverly connected. Bana moves effortlessly through his scenes, giving the character a calm demeanor necessary for plodding through touchy subjects, and he manages to also infuse his character with an apologetic, guarded quality. The film begins with limited detail of Falk’s past at all, but we soon learn about the past through a series of well-placed flashbacks. Joe Klocek plays Falk as the younger man, but Bana really controls the film as the older Falk. He presents a solid, professional, hard, and yet, gently ambiguous soul who obviously cares deeply.
The Dry is not an action-packed, thriller, but it is a suspenseful, slow burn. The ending takes a transparent turn that wraps up the past mystery and the unconnected present-day events find a satisfying resolution. It’s the journey to these finales that make The Dry an interesting journey. Bana rides the script well and Connelly’s vision is taut and gorgeous even against the stark, barren backdrop that is Australia’s dry wasteland. I am placing a B+ in my grade book.