de facto film reviews 3.5 stars

A major hit in its native land of Australia, Robert Connolly’s The Dry is the kind of film that makes one excited about the future of storytelling. It’s no mistake The Dry feels like a great crime novel, it’s based off a best-seller from author Jane Harper, but that doesn’t discredit just how methodical and precise the film unfolds, leading to one of the more intoxicating mystery thrillers of the past several years.

Aaron Falk (Eric Bana) is a federal agent returning to his home town of Kiewarra, Australia after a major tragedy. His childhood best friend, Luke, has seemingly committed a murder suicide, leaving his wife and young child dead, sparing only his newborn daughter. Luke’s parents suspect things aren’t as they seem, hiring Aaron to stay in town to investigate the tragedy. As if events aren’t drama-filled as is, many of the townsfolk aren’t too keen on Aaron’s return, as many blame him for the disappearance of his childhood crush from when they were teenagers. All this and we haven’t even mentioned the town is experienced a 300+ day drought, keeping everyone on edge more than they already are.

Connolly, along with editors Alexandre de Franceschi and Nick Meyers, juggles both mysteries with real skill, utilizing some masterful misdirection that actually keeps you guessing until the very end. The flashbacks to Aaron’s teenage years are moving, with bittersweet performances from Joe Klocek and BeBe Bettencourt. These moments serve as the films emotional backbone and are just as compelling as the central plot. There’s a certain spark in how engrossing Aaron’s journey is with a gradual sense of tension that builds and builds until it becomes nearly unbearable. From the opening frame, shot beautifully by DP Stefan Duscio (The Invisible Man), The Dry establishes its uneasy atmosphere with wide shots of the vast, empty landscapes that are scorched in heat. Connolly then disquietly flashes to the aftermath of the brutal crime that kicks off the film. This haunting sense of stillness remains present throughout the film.

The melancholic nature of The Dry also works in large part to star Eric Bana, whose presence carries both vulnerability and weight. His performance is highly nuanced while still managing to command every frame. His scenes with Genevieve O’Reilly (Mon Mothma in the Star Wars franchise) are particularly grounded and raw. The memorable supporting cast of townsfolk notably includes Keir O’Donnell (American Sniper) as the towns lone officer who accompanies Aaron on the investigation and Matt Nable (the highly underrated Outlaws) as the disgruntled brother of Aaron’s disappeared crush. The entrancing score by composer Peter Raeburn (Things Heard & Seen) gives the film a specifically haunting feel.

Like most mysteries, the lead up to the truth is more satisfying than the truth itself, thankfully the emotional payoff to The Dry is so rich and rewarding. This is a quietly riveting thriller about far more than just the fear of going back to your home town. Director Robert Connolly weaves two compelling mysteries together that lingers long in both the mind and the heart.