THE DRY Blu-ray |  ©2022 IFC Films

THE DRY Blu-ray | ©2022 IFC Films

Rating: R
Stars: Eric Bana, Genevieve O’Reilly, Keir O’Donnell, John Polson, Julia Blake, Bruce Spence, William Zappa, Matt Nable, James Frecheville, Jeremy Lindsay Taylor, Joe Klocek, Sam Corlett, BeBe Bettencourt, Claude Scott-Mitchell
Writers: Harry Cripps and Robert Connolly, additional writing by Samantha Strauss, based on the novel by Jane Harper
Director: Robert Connolly
Distributor: IFC Films
Release Date: January 18, 2022 (Blu-ray/DVD; also available on Showtime)

 THE DRY is based on a novel by Jane Harper. The film, directed by Robert Connolly, from a screenplay by Connolly and Harry Cripps, with additional writing by Samantha Strauss, has a literary texture. Its people and situations are dimensional, and we really are kept guessing. Indeed, the main drawback may be that this is a feature rather than a miniseries.

THE DRY begins with shots of some very dry fields. Gradually we hone in on an isolated house, where a baby is crying and the walls are splattered with blood. This, a title tells us, is Kiewarra, Regional Australia, where it hasn’t rained in 324 days.

Aaron Falk (Eric Bana) is an Australian Federal police officer living in the big city. However, he’s originally from Kiewarra, the suburban small town in the midst of those fields.

Newspaper headlines proclaim that there’s been a murder/suicide. At the same time, Aaron gets both a phone call requesting his return to Kiewarra and a note that says, “Luke lied. You lied. Be at the funeral.”

Kiewarra farmer Luke Hadler (Martin Dingle Wall) is believed to have shot his wife and young son before killing himself, though he spared the family baby. Luke’s mother Barb (Julia Blake) is certain that her boy couldn’t have done this, though Luke’s father Gerry (Bruce Spence) has his suspicions.

Meanwhile, flashbacks to twenty years earlier show us teen Aaron (played as a youth by Joe Klocek) and Luke (played as a young man by Sam Corlett) as best friends, respectively dating Ellie (BeBe Bettencourt) and Gretchen (played as a young woman by Claude Scott-Mitchell). Back then, there was a river, which was the scene of another death, which may or may not be connected to the current crime.

Aaron has no official authority in Kiewarra, but both personal emotions and professional instincts have him teaming up with local police detective Raco (Keir O’Donnell) to uncover the truth. The quest has results that are more plausibly dangerous than the lawmen – or the audience – may expect.

THE DRY has a lot of elements that we expect from this type of story. The protagonist comes back to his hometown, gets lied to on all sides, uncovers a few huge secrets that have nothing to do with the case at hand, gets beaten up, and so on.

In many respects, this makes THE DRY brightly-lit film noir. Bana has the right mixture of angst and toughness for the regret-filled Aaron, and he’s surrounded by a strong cast, including Genevieve O’Reilly as the present-day Gretchen. Fans of THE ROAD WARRIOR should be pleased to see Spence in a substantial supporting role, and Matt Nable scores as an unpleasant Kiewarra resident. Bettencourt has a lovely, gentle quality as Ellie.

Director Connolly finds a lot of natural beauty in the landscape. His pacing is a bit uneven, with some aspects seeming like they ought to get more play. Still, THE DRY succeeds as an intriguing dark mystery.

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