The Dry: Aussie film industry at its best

Aussie film 'The Dry' (2021) has proved to be an Australian Box Office success. Picture: Screen Australia

And we’re back! Apologies for the delay dear friends. By the time I got back from holidays the cinema had closed down for a period so welcome to the first film review for 2021!

My parents saw The Dry when it was released in early January and have been bugging me to see it ever since, so I thought why not support the Australian film industry and placate Mumma Bear in one fell swoop.

The Dry is a mystery thriller film set in regional Victoria, with Eric Bana holding down leading man duties as Federal policeman Aaron Falk.

Falk returns to his home town after decades of being away following an apparent murder suicide committed by his childhood friend. However, to use the old cliché, not everything is as it seems.

One of the few benefits of this pandemic is that there have been some great opportunities for the Aussie film industry.

Being one of the most successful countries on the planet in managing the virus, we are not only the perfect destination to film in, but also to house movie stars who want to get away from the pandemic.

Ok, that’s a bit cynical, especially considering the entire cast of The Dry is Australian and Bana lives in Melbourne.

But it does mean that Australian films are gaining more exposure and are able to head to the box office without having to compete with as many huge Hollywood productions as usual.

Hopefully, it also means that they are more likely to be considered for awards, because if The Dry is any indication, they are hitting the right notes.

The Dry’s plot twists and turns like a snake unsure of which red herring to pursue, ably assisted by a foreboding soundtrack and bleak cinematography, all combining to portray a stark, unforgiving portrait of drought-stricken regional Victoria.

Peter Raeburn’s score is full of long notes, chimes and strings that give the film an unnerving isolation.

As Falk wanders down the main road of the town, haunted by stares reserved for outsiders, or along the desolate, shrivelled wasteland that was his childhood swimming hole, you get a real sense of the complete aloneness his character feels, especially as you begin to find out why he has not returned.

The supporting cast is fantastic, with Bana backed up by stalwarts of the Australian film scene like Genevieve O’Reilly and the legendary Bruce Spence. Miranda Tapsell is great but under-used, and Matt Nable continues to be one of Australia’s most undervalued commodities.

There are few actors who can bring the amount of emotion to play in as little screen time as Nable can. His every moment is etched with the pain and rage of a man suffering endlessly with no way to escape.

All these moving parts combine to create a wonderful mystery where everyone is a suspect and the town itself seems to conspire to thwart Falk’s investigation.

Seriously, I don’t know why more mystery/thriller material like this hasn’t been milked from regional Australia. There are some truly great films and telefilms of similar vein to The Dry that haven’t garnered nearly enough exposure.

If you haven’t seen 1971’s Wake in Fright, pour yourself a stiff drink and sit down to experience one of THE premier psychological thrillers. Warning though, it may also result in your never wanting to go to Broken Hill.

What’s even better is that The Dry doesn’t suffer from being a book adaptation. It flows well and the flashbacks that provide context to the story slot in nicely without feeling cumbersome.

All in all, this really is a great film and a credit to the ability of Australian filmmakers when given enough opportunity.

BGH Rating: 7/8