4 out of 5 stars
Farming has been a mainstay throughout human history. Some of the most harrowing, inspirational and quotable moments can be credited to the example we see in the farmer's life. Work that gives birth to the salt of the earth continues to serve the rest of mankind by providing the food we eat. When these farming communities suffer because of difficult weather conditions, we all ultimately pay the price.
On these dry and dusty farmlands of Australia, Jane Harper sets her inaugural murder mystery while paying homage to those who till the soil of this sunburned land. Her tale finds its origins in the small farming community of Kiewarra during the funeral of the Hadler family. This sombre atmosphere is made even drearier because these deaths resulted from an apparent murder/suicide which merely adds to the depressing feel of the small community during a year-long drought. This event motivates Federal Police agent Aaron Falk (Eric Bana) to be drawn back to this community of his youth. After being away for 20 years, he is merely coming to share his condolences for his friend, Luke Hadler (Martin Dingle Wall). Interestingly, he is the man who is blamed for these multiple murders.
As the federal agent visits the small town and his friend’s family, he is asked by Luke’s parents if he would look into the crime. Many in the community suspect that these horrific crimes were not as cut and dried as police had initially thought. Even though Aaron hopes to get away from the farming town quickly, he decides to see if he can uncover anything that the other officers may have missed. An investigation that is hampered because of his close connection with a tragedy that forced his family to leave two decades earlier. Despite this personal history, the detective decides to remain in town and help the investigation's local constable. As they scratch below the surface of the murders, their investigation leads to emotional and divisive discoveries that may tear apart the very thread of this close-knit community.
What automatically stands out about this Australian drama is the brilliantly woven layers of Harper’s writings. Proving that even the simplest of lifestyles contain secrets, tragedies and connections that prove that no one is innocent in a community like Kiewarra. Eric Bana delivers a performance that is provided with measured intensity. Embracing his character's flawed nature, but continuing to show the critical nature of his involvement in the storyline. Though he does carry this film through until the bitter end, the supporting cast complements each element of this mystery. Subtle inclusions that manage to keep the characters and audience off the scent of both mysteries' actual culprit.
Robert Connolly (Paper Planes) manages to incorporate the Australian landscape and culture into the narrative while making it accessible to a worldwide audience. The veteran director manages to integrate enough hope into this devastating screenplay to keep people guessing to the final result without succumbing to the cliches of murder mysteries. He manages to twist this world around without causing excessive confusion, but shows viewers that they can still be surprised at the cinemas this season.
REEL DIALOGUE: How far can you take loyalty?
Loyalty is both fascinating and confusing. It is defined as being faithful to something or someone. People will put their money, careers and lives on the line for the sake of loyalty to family, friends or countries. In Jan Harper’s The Dry, Luke and Aaron's dedication proves to be both rewarding and detrimental to the farming community. It begs the question, why do we choose to be loyal or faithful to someone else?
Loyalty seems to be rooted in wanting to place implicit trust in the person we put our faith in and knowing that this loyalty will be reciprocated. The Bible plies a deeper meaning to the idea of loyalty. In studying these words and evaluating human history, God is the only one that is entirely faithful. He is faithful even when his followers are faithless. On the subject of loyalty, mankind's faithfulness can be fleeting, but we can find the real dedication and someone true to their word with God.
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24