Review: The Dry ★★★★★
Updated: Jan 6
Jane Harper's book may be the first to receive true justice on the big screen, thanks to director Robert Connolly.
The gist? Federal Policeman Aaron Falk returns to his hometown after decades of absence to attend the funeral of his childhood best friend, who is alleged to have killed his wife and young son before committing suicide - an act of evil following years of drought. When Falk reluctantly agrees to stay and investigate the crime, he re-lives the deepest of traumas from his teenage years, the drowning of his friend Ellie Deacon. As he struggles to establish Luke's innocence and his own, Falk finds himself at war with the community he used to call home.
Jane Harper’s best-selling novel The Dry is one of those books that feels written with a feature film adaptation in mind: a genre narrative (crime mystery-thriller) that’s pacey, plot-driven and full of dialogue, with a central location ripe for cinematic imagery. Extensive use of flashbacks is built into its structure, and they’re even presented in italics as if to say, “This is where the cuts and scene changes go”.
I inhaled Harper's best-selling debut novel in a matter of hours last year, one of the best Australian thrillers I've come across in such a digestible package. It doesn't try to subvert the norm, to be anything other than a cookie cutter crime novel and yet, it translates to one of the most powerful cinematic comments on Australian culture.
This film is made by Australians, for Australians, and it's noticeable, with the performances only ever teetering on the edge of overdone Australian dialogue and inflection. Despite much of the script emerging straight from the pages of the fictional text, I am still thankful that the production never threatened to enter Dundee territory, a consistent problem that emerges in big-screen Australian flicks.
Eric Bana is brilliant, re-imagining Falk's character to a sophistication beyond what Harper's novel achieved. The townspeople are equally as skilled, truly representing small-town Australia in all of it's tight-knit, traumatising glory. The failing of the film? Often the flashback scenes are oozing with tacky lines and poor acting.
These slight moments of cringe are easily overlooked when we as an audience meet the star of the film, the source of all evil and beauty: the Australian landscape. The cinematic imagery of this film is transcendent and its value to both the book and film cannot be understated. The Dry could only be based here, and that's what makes it special.
Despite falling into the noir category, the landscape of The Dry rejects the dark-alleys and trench-coats of this Sherlock-esque cinematic genre. A tightly woven plot with a flurry of red herrings is consistently balanced out through the scenery, which packs a punch at every twist and turn.
The Dry is a mature thriller which holds a microscope up to the experiences of rural Australian communities. Considered, tense and clever, it is a cinematic experience not to be missed.
My final notes on this film:
Eric Bana has STILL GOT IT. It makes me uncomfortable that his children are my age, but regardless, I am still objectifying this delicious man.
This is one of the most promising Australian movies I have seen, and THE crime movie to beat in 2021.
Read the book first. You will understand the true justice this film serves up.