The Dry is the kind of neo-noir film that you have seen before but not in a while. There has been a lack of good crime films like this. Adapted from the 2016 novel by Jane Harper, the film is set in Australia and stars Eric Bana. Director Robert Connolly has a striking sense of visual symbolism that gives the film a unique style even if the plot isn't particularly unique.
Bana plays Aaron Falk, a federal agent who travels from Melbourne back to his rural hometown of Kiewarra. It has been a long time since Aaron has been back home but the death of his childhood friend Luke (Martin Dingle-Wall) prompts him to reluctantly return. Why is Aaron reluctant to come home? He left as a teenage boy under bad circumstances after the death of another friend of his, a young girl named Ellie. We are given scattered flashbacks that lead up to her drowning and the suspicion of townsfolk at the time that Aaron was involved.
That is only one of two central mysteries in The Dry. Luke dies under some mysterious circumstances. It appears he killed his wife and kids and then himself. Those close to Luke don't believe he did it but Kierwarra is a small town where people are quick to jump to easy explanations. Aaron soon teams up with local police officer Greg (Keir O'Donnell) to dig deeper into what happened. In the process, he digs up the ghosts of the past.
Anymore plot would ruin the film's mysteries. While the end explanation makes sense, it is hard to see it coming. The Dry never gives us enough breadcrumbs to figure out the mystery ourselves. The film is far more interested in how violence can haunt characters and how innocent people become victims to others. The visual language Connolly uses gives the film an often powerful and striking feel. The contrast between the lush landscape in the flashbacks against the dried out and cracking ground of the present is effective in conveying the film's themes. It is clear the horrific murders at the center of the film aren't the only hardship that has hit this community.
The film's slower pace allows for character development. Bana is particularly compelling in the lead role. He plays well off O'Donnell and the two of them make the film work even when it stumbles over some familiar plot beats. The Dry boasts a terrific sense of the landscape it sets its story in and features solid performances from the entire cast. The film is a pleasant surprise given that the neo-noir genre has been lacking in fresh entries for a while. If you are a fan of crime and mystery films, The Dry will quench your thirst.