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With: Eric Bana, Genevieve O'Reilly, Keir O'Donnell, John Polson, Julia Blake, Bruce Spence, Matt Nable, William Zappa, James Frecheville, Joe Klocek, BeBe Bettencourt, Claude Scott-Mitchell, Sam Corlett, Miranda Tapsell, Daniel Frederiksen, Jeremy Lindsay Taylor, Eddie Baroo, Renee Lim, Martin Dingle Wall
Written by: Harry Cripps, Robert Connolly, Samantha Strauss, based on a novel by Jane Harper
Directed by: Robert Connolly
MPAA Rating: R for violence, and language throughout
Running Time: 117
Date: 05/21/2021

The Dry (2021)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Shadow of a Drought

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Perhaps hampered by the task of adapting Jane Harper's novel, this languid crime drama isn't quite as taut or dynamic as it might have been, but it's still a well-acted, vivid piece of storytelling.

Australian Federal Police officer Aaron Falk (Eric Bana) receives word that he must return home to his drought-ridden small town of Kiewarra for a funeral. Aaron's childhood friend, Luke, Luke's wife, and their child are the victims of a potential murder-suicide. Aaron himself is quite unpopular there, due to his tentative connection with the drowning of a young woman decades earlier.

He re-connects with another friend, Gretchen (Genevieve O'Reilly), and meets with Luke's parents (Bruce Spence and Julia Blake), who are convinced that Luke couldn't have done such a horrible thing. They plead with Aaron to stick around and look further into the case, which they think involves the family farm. He joins forces with a local cop, Greg Raco (Keir O'Donnell), and begins looking into the mystery, which begins to take some very unexpected turns.

Directed by Robert Connolly (The Bank, Three Dollars), The Dry relies on so much character history to help thicken its story, but the frequent flashbacks to the early days — with younger actors playing some of the modern characters — can be confusing; it takes a while to establish who is supposed to be who. Once in the present, however, the movie is allowed to wander into interesting gray areas.

As Falk, Bana doesn't get to show much emotion — he must be on his guard — but he manages a neatly nuanced performance, a man carrying pain and guilt, and operating out of obligation, and a vain hope at redemption. Especially interesting is the relationship between Falk and Raco, which evolves as each man learns more about the other. The same occurs with Gretchen; what might have been a tacked-on romance turns into more character substance.

Not much is done with the drought theme, other than a shot of Falk being perturbed at not being able to take a shower, but the murder mystery, and the movie's conclusion are better-than-average, making The Dry a quenching experience.

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