Jacob Richardson | 1/1/2021
It’s impossible to fault The Dry.
Aaron Falk (Eric Bana) hasn’t returned to his hometown since the tragic death of his friend Ellie (BeBe Bettencourt) when he was in high school. But when his old best friend Luke Hadler (Martin Dingle Wall) kills his family and then turns the gun on himself, Aaron returns. Despite the town’s suspicion that he had something to do with Ellie’s death all those years ago, Aaron is roped in to digging deeper into Luke’s murder-suicide. Something feels off to him - but will his relationship to the deceased, and his suspicions about what happened all those years ago, help him to solve two unsolvable cases? Or lead him further down the rabbit hole?
There’s something about The Dry. As an Australian, you almost sigh when something particularly Aussie comes on screen in any serious movie these days. Many times, it’s a familiarity issue that detaches you from the Hollywood movie magic of an American or British film. And oftentimes, it leads you to discount the picture - with ideas like “pretty good”, or “good for an Australian film” popping into your head. That’s not necessarily a take on the quality of filmmaking from Australian directors, which is as strong as it has ever been, but moreso on the jarring nature of seeing places, accents and distinctly Australian things you know on the big screen.
So it comes as a bit of a surprise as The Dry unfolds that you stop thinking of this movie as ‘pretty good’ for an Australian film, and even as ‘bloody good’ for an Australian film. Instead, as you’re engrossed in a complex and twisted plot, delivered in a perfectly measured pace and with stunning and oftentimes inventive cinematography, you start to just recognise this as the tremendous piece of cinema it is.
The acting across the board is great. Australian drama has a beautiful way of infusing comedic beats in, and this is no different, with some comic relief character popping up here and there. Bebe Bettencourt is a standout, appearing as the traumatised young Ellie who takes matters into her own hands to escape her situation. But at its heart, this is a showcase of Eric Bana’s talent, and he is on fine form here - proving once again why he is one of Australia’s most well known thespian exports.
The film also looks spectacular. The arid landscapes of outback Australia are at once harsh and unforgiving, and desperately intriguing. The film explores small town Australia, the outback bush, drought stricken regions, agricultural hubs, and even metropolitan centres in new and interesting ways. Even from the start, the cityscapes of Sydney look oddly worldly - this could almost be New York. Once in regional Australia, however, the film takes an almost True Detective-esque vibe, and does wonders with misshapen trees and slow motion fire.
That being said, The Dry isn’t breaking any boundaries here. They say a good detective drama gives you all the clues you need to solve it independently early in the film, and you still only work it out in the same time as the detective (as opposed to holding back information for a big reveal), and The Dry does this very well. And that really is a testament to the film’s mentality as a whole. It’s difficult to call this a masterpiece, because it is stock standard filmmaking and breaks no new ground or genre moulds. It just does what it does perfectly, and that makes it immensely watchable, enjoyable and commendable.
The Dry isn’t changing the face of cinema - it’s doing what we’ve seen before, just really, really well. For fans of the genre, or even for fans of big budget cinema in general, this is a must see.