One of the things that makes Australian cinema stand out from other films is the grit that quite often comes with it. When I say that, I am not just talking about genre flicks. I am talking about drama films like Romper Stomper that just seem to go that extra step further than most other films.
When you mix that grit with the visuals that you get from classic Australian films like Picnic At Hanging Rock and Wake In Fright,you suddenly get something very special and this is the case is when you end up with films like Robert Connolly’s new film The Dry.
Of course Connolly is no stranger to the kind of gritty filmmaking that I was just talking about. It is something that he has brought to the screen previously with films like Balibo, which explored one of the most important events to ever occur in Australian media history.
With his new film, The Dry, Connolly captures that grit as the story centres around successful Federal Police Officer Aaron Falk (Eric Bana – Troy) who returns to the country town where he grew up to investigate the apparent murder-suicide of one of his close friends.
A lot has changed in the town since Aaron has left, the town is now on its knees due to a yearlong drought and many of the residents have not forgotten that young Aaron (Joe Klocek – Patricia Moore) initially left the town a suspect in the murder of a young woman, Ellie Deacon (BeBe Bettencourt – My First Panic).
As Aaron works with local Police Officer Greg Raco (Keir O’Donnell – American Sniper) to solve the case surrounding his friend, he also finds himself having to defend himself from the murder years before, while growing close to his former friend Gretchen (Genevieve O’Reilly – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story).
Such is Connolly’s power as a filmmaker with The Dry you can literally taste the dust in your mouth as he captures amazing shots of Australia’s Wimmera alongside his cinematographer Stefan Duscio (Jungle). Often, it is the scenes of Eric Bana slowly walking through dry creek beds while deep in thought that say a million things more than a whole page of dialogue could. There is a strange beauty to this film, the same beauty that Peter Weir found with Picnic At Hanging Rock where the visuals are beautiful to look at, while at the same time they capture the harshness of the Australian bush.
The film’s screenplay, put together by Connolly and co-writer Harry Cripps (2:22) also enhances the film by seemingly using every word spoken to hit the audience with impact. There are scenes here where very little is said and that just provides even more impact to dialogue when it is spoken. Of course, the other power to this screenplay is the plot itself. Nothing is ever given away before it should, nothing is spoiled and as a result, you have one of the best crafted crime thrillers to hit the screen since Mystery Road.
Bringing all that to the fore is the marvellous performance by Eric Bana. Throughout this film it really feels like Bana was born to play Aaron Falk. He somehow morphs completely into the role and you soon forget that you are watching Bana. His performance is balanced as he plays a character that at times is vulnerable and at other times is forced to show an aggression that helps him find the truth.
Alongside Eric Bana, Keir O’Donnell shines as the nervous and out-of-his-depth Greg Raco. The scenes between the pair are amazing and credit must be paid to O’Donnell for not ever becoming over-awed acting alongside Australian acting royalty. A big shoutout also so Eddie Baroo (Australia) who steals every scene he is in as the lovable barman McMurdo, often playing the voice of reason in the town. He is like a character plucked straight out of a Shakespearian tragedy. He can see the dismay and hurt around him but is powerless to stop it.
The Dry is easily one of the films of the year. Gritty, dramatic and suspenseful it is everything that a good crime thriller should be. When you combine a brilliant acting performance by Eric Bana alongside the stunning filmmaking of Robert Connolly, you end up with a beautiful Australian film that packs some real punch.