Streamer: Digital and DVD
Length: 117 minutes
Not everything was terrible in 2020. Seriously, good stuff happened too! Yes, we suffered through a global pandemic, everyone except billionaires lost money and we all found out how much day drinking we could do in our trackie-daks… but Australian films did pretty well.
Penguin Bloom was a big hit, High Ground got decent numbers but the undisputed king of the Aussie box office was the Eric Bana-starring thriller, The Dry.
The film, directed by Robert Connolly, took in a mammoth 20.4 million dollarydoos, making it the 13th highest-grossing Aussie movie of all time.
Sadly, we missed its cinema run (on account of the aforementioned pandemic and day drinking) but it’s now released on home formats so we took a look. And you know what? It’s pretty bloody good!
The Dry tells the story of Federal Agent Aaron Falk (Eric Bana) who comes back to his hometown of Kiewarra after an absence of twenty years.
The reason for his return is the grim death of childhood friend Luke (Martin Dingle-Wall), who allegedly killed his wife Karen and child Billy before ending his own life. But Aaron smells a rat and something just doesn’t quite add up.
But what else could have happened to Luke and his family? And how does it relate to another mysterious death, one from Aaron’s own life?
Let’s be honest, stories about small-town murders and small-town secrets aren’t exactly new. Hell, the Australian publishing industry seems to shoot them out en masse with shocking regularity.
However, The Dry — based on the popular book by Jane Harper — is a cut above the generic.
Part of that is due to Eric Bana who makes a welcome return to cinema screens after what feels like far too long. Bana’s take on Falk is subtle and nuanced, with an understated sense of character.
Kudos also to the creation of Kiewarra — a fictional drought-stricken town in regional Victoria — which provides a strong backdrop for the secrets and lies that have so many of the characters stuck in the past.
The notion of a town that could be destroyed completely by even one errant spark is profoundly evocative and feels very Australian.
In fact, the thing The Dry nails the most, is the uniqueness of the environment and its characters which remains strong even when the central mystery skews a tad more traditional.
Cast-wise, Bana is supported by an embarrassment of riches. Genevieve O’Reilly plays Gretchen, a childhood friend of Aaron, very capably and Matt Nable does a great job as Grant Dow, who is very much not a fan of Azza.
John Polson, Bruce Spence and William Zappa also deliver vital, memorable roles and combined with Connolly’s vivid sense of Aussie noir, you’ve got a pearler of a yarn on your hands.
On the downside, the story doesn’t quite surprise as much as it could, and one aspect of the ending feels a little too ambiguous for its own good.
These are minor quibbles, however, because generally speaking The Dry is a rock-solid thriller with a superb cast and a haunting style, at once familiar and uniquely Australian. It’s also a nice reminder that we can, at times, crank out genuinely excellent fillums of our own.
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!
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