The Dry

* * * 1/2

Releasing across Australia on New Year’s Day.

Robert Connelly’s The Dry, based on Jane Harper’s novel, is a very professionally constructed example of a very trope-y genre. A Big City Cop is called back home to their small town because of a tragic event, and in doing so, must face dark secrets from their past. Sound familiar? Of course it does. There have been at least sixty TV series made in Europe over the past ten years – over forty of them in the Nordic nations – that hew to that exact formula. It’s become such a cliché that there was even an entire parody series, Fallet, made in Sweden in 2017, that hit every tired beat again and again, exposing the genre’s self-cannibalisation ruthlessly.

But Australia is not Norway, and it’s the milieu that gives The Dry what freshness it has. Eric Bana’s Aaron Falk is a Federal Police Officer living in Melbourne whose (fictional) hometown, Kiewerra, hasn’t seen rain in a year. It is the parched, incessantly dusty drought-stricken crisis that gives the film its striking and foreboding atmosphere, and separates it from all those similar stories set in snow and sleet rather than dirt and desert.

The plotting is tight and, of course, the town is full of dodgy dirtbags played by good actors with interesting faces. Bana’s Falk is quite a cipher at the centre, but that’s part of the genre, too: the cop is inherently the least interesting character. It’s all plot plot plot, red herrings and ominous music, until the Big Reveal(s) in the third act. For me, those concluding sequences were not as satisfying – nor as well constructed – as the investigation that came before, and had a nasty bite that seemed tonally distinct from the rest of the film. But I suspect fans of the genre will find this very solid film way more than acceptable. I have no doubt that there was talk of turning the novel into a series; that it’s all done and dusted (sorry) in two hours rather than stretched out to ten is commendable.

One thought on “The Dry

  1. A few people had recommended the book on which this is based to me. A crime novel set in the Victorian or NSW country during a drought. It was OK but far too many false notes and irritating inaccuracies about sheep farming. Fields instead of paddocks. Barns instead of sheds. A farm of a couple of hundred acres being described by its owner as ‘big enough’. Only a diary farm or a fruit block of that size is big enough to make a decent living. Lots of things like that which really spoilt it for me – but not lots of other readers who raved about it. Clearly less fussy than I am. I struggled to keep reading. The climax was ridiculous. The killer standing in the bush with a cigarette lighter, threatening to set fire to it, and apparently, the whole town which will cause the death of its citizens. As if the fire will spread at a miraculous speed and instantly engulf everything, in every direction. Bushfires spread rapidly, but not that rapidly. It was a poor novel.

    So I was not in a hurry to see the film version in early 2021. But it was better. Robert Connelly wrote and directed it – and he does the Aussie thing pretty well, especially the Aussie bloke. The setting was just right: the town, the houses, the pub, the paddocks, the silos in the background. Filmed in and around 17 Victorian towns including Beulah, Minyip, Murtoa, Clunes and Castlemaine. Some excellent acting as well, especially from ‘our Eric’ whom I had regarded as a poor mans Rusty Crowe. But he is pretty good in this.

Leave a Reply