I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
Rated R, 117 minutes.
Director: Robert Connolly
Starring: Eric Bana, Genevieve O’Reilly, Keir O’Donnell, Joe Klocek, Bebe Bettencourt, Sam Corlett, Claude Scott-Mitchell, James Frecheville, Matt Nable, Bruce Spence, Julia Blake, John Polson, and William Zappa
Eric Bana gives a career-best performance in this taut murder mystery.
Many television series and films dropped last week, and we didn’t want The Dry to get lost in the shuffle. Co-written and directed by Robert Connolly (2009’s Balibo, starring Oscar Isaac), this newly released title is one of the best crime thrillers to have hit the screens in some time.
Released by IFC Films, the taut murder mystery is set amid an elegantly illustrated landscape of baked land in Australia. Some might say it’s where dreams go to die, as families slowly move about without much cheer as an unsolved crime from 20 years plagues the small outback town as much as the drought. City detective Aaron Falk (Eric Bana, in a career-best performance) returns to his hometown for the funeral of a childhood friend. And this isn’t your typical funeral, either. His friend allegedly shot and killed his wife and son before turning the weapon on himself. Memories and sins of the past are stirred up, and it’s up to Aaron and a local police sergeant (Keir O’Donnell) to follow the trail to the truth.
Navigating a plot with two crimes, separated by decades, is no easy task. However, Connolly brings a natural flow to The Dry that drifts back and forth between timelines with significant ease. This is partly due to Bana’s commanding performance, allowing the transitions never to feel jarring or abrupt. It’s what lies within Bana’s eyes. It’s clear that Aaron is haunted by terrible flashbacks, leaving little mental space for anything else. Bana plays him like he’s a walking punching bag who’s trying to shake the views of locals and prove he’s a worthy person and capable of doing good. It’s remarkable work that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Connolly takes his time and doesn’t rush to conclusions. He makes it more about the characters and their internal struggles rather than focus on the plot mechanics. But when those twists and turns come, they hit with tremendous impact. You can feel every ounce of its emotional weight just as the stunning cinematography paints a sun-bleached setting to cause you to nearly sense sand grains between your toes and sweat running down your face.
The Dry is a breathless feat that holds your attention from start to finish. Rumor is there could be two more entries on the way. Considering how rich the thematic soil is here, I really hope they continue the arc.
The Dry is now playing in select theaters and available anywhere you rent movies.
Our interview with filmmaker Robert Connolly:
Fresh Fiction reporter Preston Barta sat down with writer-director Robert Connolly to discuss his Australian mystery drama thriller The Dry. We chat about navigating the story’s two mysteries, Bana’s gifts as a performer, and how the filmmaker keeps audiences on their toes.