When a childhood friend dies in a nasty murder-suicide, taking his wife and son with him, Australian Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk (Eric Bana) returns to his drought-struck country hometown for the funeral. Asked by the grieving parents to dig into the case, Falk decides to stick around for a while, which doesn’t sit too well with several of the locals. As a teen, Falk was implicated in the mysterious drowning death of his close friend Ellie (Bebe Bettencourt) and was forced to leave town in the hurry. And so, we are presented with two mysteries: one decades old, the other a fresh and bleeding wound.
Directed by Robert Connolly (Balibo, The Bank) and adapted from the wildly successful debut novel by Jane Harper, The Dry is a film noir, but not of the kind we’re used to. Gone are the hard black shadows and menacing midnight streets of Marlowe’s Los Angeles or Spade’s San Francisco; The Dry’s twisty mystery is set against the dusty yellows and barren reds of the parched Victorian wheat country. You can draw parallels to Ivan Sen’s Mystery Road outback crime franchise, or even (at a pinch) Ted Kotcheff’s Wake in Fright, but the clearest forebear is John Sturgess’s Bad Day at Black Rock, wherein a one-armed Spencer Tracy unearthed dark doings in another water-starved country town.