The awkward title of this mystery, based on a best-selling novel, describes a small town in rural Australia that has been suffering through a drought for some time. The intent seems to be to prepare an environment of discomfort and depression into which the story is then injected, and to an extent it works. The town is an unpleasant place, but the reasons go further than the climate. The movie opens with a catastrophe: a woman and her son have been murdered in their home, with the presumed killer, the woman’s husband, dead by his own hand, or so it seems. A big city cop named Aaron Falk (Eric Bana) returns to the town, where he grew up, for the funeral, but reluctantly. Falk himself was marginally involved in the death of a female friend when he was a teenager, and some in the town still think he had something to do with the death. When the presumed killer’s parents ask Falk to hang around and try to prove their son’s innocence, he obliges but with serious reservations.
Though the mystery itself is competently developed, the aforementioned atmospheric details add so much dead weight to the action that following the story becomes something of a chore. Falk reconnects with an old girlfriend whose utility to the plot is not clear, and as the requisite red herrings pile up Falk becomes more aggressively determined in his investigation, despite or perhaps because of the general air of hostility he encounters at every turn for leaving the town long ago without resolving whatever role he played in the death of his childhood friend. His sudden departure meant he must have been guilty of something. And while these varying, often conflicting dynamics add to the drama, they aren’t marshaled in a way that makes the core mystery satisfying. Falk’s mean-spirited detective work comes off as a means of addressing these obstacles but it’s hard to follow his logic toward any viable solution. As a result, The Dry, true to its title, offers no suspense or, for that matter, cumulative excitement. It’s inert, like the dusty air that hangs over everything in the town.
Now playing in Tokyo at Shinjuku Cinema Qualite (03-3352-5645).
The Dry home page in Japanese
photo (c) 2020 The Dry Film Holdings Pty Ltd and Screen Australia