“The Dry,” directed by Robert Connelly and adapted from Jane Harper’s novel, is a hard boiled noir that gradually tightens its grip. Haunting, melancholic and tense, the film has an uneasy constrictive quality that stays with you.
Federal Agent Aaron Falk (Eric Bana) returns to his boyhood town in Australia to attend the funeral of his childhood friend Luke, who is guilty of a murder / suicide in killing his family. Luke’s empathetic parents approach Falk as they are convinced that he obviously did not carry it out. Falk resolves to get answers, along with sergeant Greg Raco (Keir O’Donnell).
The locals do not like Falk, convinced that he murdered his adolescent sweetheart Ellie (BeBe Bettencourt) twenty years ago, a questionable suicide.
Bana is perfect in his role. In public he is pragmatic and calm. Privately he is racked with guilt over Ellie. Falk is constantly threatened by the residents who throw a bloody calf on his car. He has one friend, Gretchen (Genevieve O’Reilly).
The fictional setting of Kiewarra is barren and desolate, as if it were under quarantine. There are endless dusty fields for miles and infinite parched forests. The few people who reside in the town are mean and shallow, eaten by petty grievances and assumptions. Falk only has logic to depend on and his psyche is often absorbed by the sadnesses of long ago that he cannot rectify.
A gritty Australian gothic drama takes shape with a hateful father (William Zappa), who is quite frightening.
The film has an engaging subplot, a series of childhood flashbacks that draw you in with the wistful qualities of Bradbury or Stephen King.
One feels for the teenaged Falk (Joe Klocek), who was once open to life and is now as an adult, subdued and passive, pulled within by the horror that he witnessed. What might Falk have become if he were not obsessed with his non-actions?
Anxious and suspenseful with flashes of adolescent innocence, “The Dry” is a satisfying gradual thriller that sneaks up and leaves you pondering the dark side of adolescence.
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