“The Dry” (MA) ****
I DON’T regret not having read Jan Harper’s novel from which writer (together with Harry Cripps) and director Robert Connolly built this strong Aussie thriller.
Entering the cinema already knowing whodunnit would have diluted the agreeable collection of tensions that were building as I waited to find out. And when the revelation came, it was so breathtakingly unexpected and powerfully-staged that I didn’t expect any of the immediate protagonists to survive.
That might be enough to tell my regular readers that “The Dry” is a great way to start the year’s movie-going.
Filmed in Victoria’s Wimmera from a base in Horsham, one of its principal stars is the landscape – dry, dusty, heartbreaking flatlands that once grew cereals and fed sheep. This time last year, we knew only too well how drought was ravaging the land and the people who drew their livelihoods from it.
Flashback (the film uses landscape to define the major time changes) 20 years, when a death that might or might not have been murder shook the (mythical) town of Kiewarra. Fast forward to the almost-present. Following the apparent murder-suicide of an old friend who it seems killed his wife and child in a fit of depression before turning the gun on himself, AFP investigator Aaron Falk (Eric Bana) returns to Kiewarra for the funeral.
The dead man’s parents (Julia Blake and Bruce Spence) don’t believe the murder-suicide story and ask Falk to investigate. The local State police sergeant (Keir O’Donnell) gets involved as does the school principal (John Polson). Falk isn’t well received by many of the townsfolk who suspect he had lied about the previous death.
The film’s strong cast tells the story convincingly. Eric Bana’s well-modulated portrayal of Falk rightly claims centre stage throughout. And, as the closing shot agonisingly declares, the denouement doesn’t hang about waiting for rain.