‘The Dry’ is dry alright. It could have been titled ‘The Driest’ as it’s quite a slow-burn that hardly ever picks up the pace enough to keep you interested.
Thankfully, the story has ample suspects to keep you curious. Well, that is if you can understand what they’re saying with those thick accents of theirs. I’m not complaining, just informing.
I digress. Suffering from a 324-day drought (I get it, I live in Phoenix), the small town of Kiewarra, Australia, has had a murder-suicide. Have things become that dull? Is it because there’s no work? What could cause someone like the unassuming Luke Hadler, played by Martin Dingle Wall, to kill his wife and child and then himself? If it were to spare everyone a life of misery, why did he leave his infant son wailing in the crib after carrying out the ugly deed?
When the film opens, we see Luke’s wife Karen (Rosanna Lockhart) lying on the floor in front of the front door; her blood splattered all over the walls. In the room next, the baby cries. Then there’s the funeral, where Detective Aaron Falk, played by Eric Bana from the films ‘Troy’ and ‘Munich,’ comes at the behest of his mother and father to help solve the mystery of the deaths for Luke’s parents. At the funeral, Aaron runs into Gretchen (Genevieve O’Reilly). They spend time together.
If you can keep up with a story that has a lot of flashbacks to lead you to the ultimate destination, then this is a film that will move you. If it’s difficult for you to concentrate that long, what can I say? The story is decent, so get some caffeine or take notes. I’m being trite. It’s easy to keep up with, but I’m not going to lie; it does go back and forth quite a bit. Don’t be tired when you sit down to watch.
Fairly soon into the movie, you’ll be asking, ‘what does what Luke did to himself and his family today have to do with a murder from many years in the past?’ All the flashbacks involve the death of his then-girlfriend, 17-year-old Ellie Deacon (Bebe Bettencourt). When they were in high school, Ellie, Luke, Gretchen and Aaron would swim at the now dry river. In fact, Aaron has since then never been entirely trusted by the people in the community. It could explain his reason for becoming a detective, no? Something is amiss and everything he knows tells him that these deaths aren’t what they’re being labeled. Were finances the issue? Was the farm the motive? At Karen’s house, Aaron finds a note with the name ‘Grant’ on it. There’s much more to be exposed. He doesn’t announce his suspicions but people, especially Gretchen, are curious as to why he’s still there if he isn’t investigating.
Aaron gets close to Sergeant Greg Raco (Keir O’Donnell), who helps him now and then. They look at CCTV of the evening in question and more and more suspects are revealed. Probably the best part about this mystery is just when you think you have the mystery solved, something new is uncovered. The film is suspenseful, and the cinematography does its job of putting you into the dryness that is the town where the murders occurred. If you’re in the mood for something different, landscape and narrative and the lot, look no further than here. Solving two murders at the same time, one in flashbacks, one in the present? What’s not to be like about that premise? Bana is sterling, as usual, and thankfully, O’Reilly and O’Donnell match him step for step, but what’s not to like is the pace. The plot may be good, but ‘The Dry,’ really is, title warning, painfully slow.
Director: Robert Connolly
Writers: Harry Cripps, Robert Connolly *Adapted from the novel by Jane Harper
Stars: Eric Bana, Genevieve O’Reilly, Keir O’Donnell, Bebe Bettencourt
Run Time: 1h 57m
Genres: Crime, Drama, Mystery