'The Dry', adapted from an incredibly popular novel of the same name by Jane Harper, will hopefully get Aussie bottoms back on the seats of their local cinemas.
The film, starring Eric Bana, has been eagerly anticipated, especially by those who loved the book and its leading character, Aaron Falk.
'The Dry' focuses on a small farming town in the bush, a year into a drought.
Like a lot of Australian cinema, 'The Dry' treats the landscape as a character, and an almost malevolent one at that. Some scenes almost recalled 'Picnic At Hanging Rock' (without the panpipes), and the faded, yellow-tinged pallet was another parallel. The location chosen for the film was perfect, as was the cinematography: it really communicated to the audience the sense of wide open, dusty spaces where people lose themselves. The dry, dry bush crackled like tinder, as did the townspeople's mental state after so long without rain.
The casting was absolutely on point. Eric Bana was great as always, but he wasn’t necessarily the stand-out – he was such a complete natural in the role that other performances shone through. Genevieve O’Reilly as Gretchen was the best casting choice possible. There was good chemistry between the leads, and they both embodied the strong, silent, 'she’ll be right, but let’s never talk about our emotions' bush stereotypes. Another stand-out was Matthew Nable as Grant Dow. He was truly scary, and we’ve all come across (and perhaps hid from) guys exactly like him. His character rang true.
While this film is a great Australian success story based on a wildly popular book, it will be interesting to see how it translates to international audiences. It might be too Aussie. There are references to the CWA, lamingtons, and yabbies for example, which foreign audiences might not be able to connect with, despite Bana’s star power. The general desperation of the drought too, only connects if you understand what all the subtle hints and shorthand mean. We get it, but there is no explanation to clue outsider audiences in, especially as all the characters are so stoic and semi-monosyllabic.
None of this is a problem of course – we need to be able to tell our stories in our own voices, regardless of other audiences understanding them. But, having a film perform well in larger markets is always good for our local industry.
A couple of other points about 'The Dry' to mention, especially about our current social climate. Firstly, there is some diversity in the casting, which is great. There is only one Indigenous cast member though (Miranda Tapsell – always great) and as a city girl I’m honestly not sure if this is reflective of reality, but it made me think. More potentially problematic, though, is the narrative of the white, true blue bloke/great dad 'snapping' and killing his family, as opposed to others who murder. The film does its best to address this tension, but it is again worth noting, and considering.
In this way, 'The Dry' gives audiences a lot to think about, as well as entertaining and gripping them with the slowly unfolding story. The performances and style of the film were all top notch, and it’s a great movie to take the (adult) family to this Christmas period – nothing says 'I love you and happy holidays' like a family murder mystery, right?