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  • Writer's pictureeclectic Stefan

The Dry:"When lying becomes second nature"

Australia experiences severe weather conditions. Floods, catastrophic bushfires and disastrous droughts cause environmental devastation and human hardships.

In human terms, weather becomes more than a statement of natural extremes. In dramatic terms, the sympathetic nature of extreme weather symbolises characters’ emotional turmoil.

Detective Aaron Falk (Eric Bana) returns from Melbourne to his small hometown of Kiewarra in the Mallee district, in the northwest region of the state of Victoria, to attend his friend Luke’s funeral. Luke (Martin Dingle-Wall), a Kiewarra local, killed his wife and daughter and then shot himself. It is a tragic occurrence.

The lifeblood of a small town is its people, its history and its memory.

The community in the district is experiencing the ravages of a drought. The land is dry; the bush crackles underfoot; temperatures are rising.

The land in the Mallee district

The tinder dry landscape elicits emotive tones

Aaron’s presence at the funeral ignites old animosities surrounding the death of another local, teenager Ellie (Bebe Bettencourt), twenty years earlier. Luke, Ellie and Aaron were teenage friends until Ellie’s death brought suspicion upon the boys and forced Aaron’s family to leave Kiewarra.

It becomes evident that Aaron’s return sparks distress and long-term memories, especially for Ellie’s father (William Appa), who blames Aaron and Luke for Ellie’s death.

The suspicions regarding the circumstances of and the truth surrounding the earlier death are incendiary. Aaron and his friend Luke were implicated in Ellie’s death. Lies and collusion shadow the boys.

To add complexity and heighten the drama, Aaron is pressured by Luke’s parents to investigate the circumstances of Ellie’s death and exonerate their dead son of any wrong-doing. Rather than leaving Kiewarra following the funeral and returning to Melbourne, Aaron chooses to pursue the evidence surrounding Luke’s death and the ensuing connection with Ellie’s death under suspicious circumstances.

The dry natural environment appears inert yet ready to respond to the slightest encouragement that will result in the ignition of a natural disaster and a reflection of the human turmoil engulfing the town and its community.

The tinder dry bush becomes a physical, natural reflection of the town’s internal confusion. It echoes the residents’ inner agitation and mounting fury.

Aaron looks to his past | The main street of Kiewarra

Kiewarra is a small town. People know one another; families know other families. People grow together and then apart. The heart of small town living in Kiewarra is centred on the local cafe, the pub, the doctor’s office, the school and the people who live and work in them. Secrets are unraveled, stories are confused and messages become mixed as Aaron tries to discover what happened with Luke and how Luke and Aaron’s own behaviours are implicated in Ellie’s death.

Ellie, Gretchen, Luke, & Aaron as teenagers | Aaron as an adult Melbourne detective

Aaron & Kiewarra's Sergeant Raco | Aaron & Gretchen as adults

Aaron provokes a mood of anger and deceit. The audience is never sure who is telling the truth and what part of everybody’s story about events might contribute to the solution of the crimes being investigated. The narrative switches between Aaron’s investigation regarding Luke’s death and scenes from the past recalling Ellie, Luke and Aaron’s story.

There is a sense of an overwhelming sadness and bitterness about the characters, the deaths and the community’s suspicions. The recriminations of Ellie’s death in the past and Luke’s death in the present weigh on people’s hearts until they vent their feelings angrily and forcefully.

Director Robert Connelly is superb at creating tension and smouldering action that simmer below the surface. One of his earlier films, The Boys, builds suspense into an unbearable crescendo leading to a brutal murder.

You may not be a local in the Kiewarra community but you will experience the direct impact of Aaron’s intrusion into a community’s repressed feelings from the past. Lives will be shattered once more and the community will be damaged. By mirroring both human behaviour and natural elements, The Dry strips bare the audience’s emotions and builds guilt and grief until the revelation of an agonising human truth beyond the veneer of crimes and lies.

Official Trailer The Dry


The Dry (Australia)

Completed 2020

Released 2021

WATCH: The Dry


COMING NEXT ON SCREEN SPEAK THE DRY ON LOCATION How the real town Beulah was transformed into & the real people behind the fictional town Kiewarra in The Dry Includes interviews with Beulah locals


FILM EXTRAS: Searing Heat & Unbridled Emotions

In the Heat of the Night (1967) Watch: In the Heat of the Night Director: Norman Jewison Starring: Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, Lee Grant Norman Jewison’s classic Oscar-winning drama won five Academy Awards at the 1967 ceremony, including Best Actor for Rod Steiger and Best Picture. The legendary Sidney Poitier plays vacationing detective Virgil Tibbs, a man famed for being one of the best investigators in the business. Before making his way back home to Philadelphia out of the sweltering Mississippi heat, Tibbs crosses paths with Detective Gillespie (Steiger), who asks for his expertise in a murder investigation. As the detectives hunt for the killer, Tibbs is faced with extreme racial tensions in a Southern town where blood has been shed.

Body Heat (1981) Watch: Body Heat Director: Lawrence Kasdan Starring: William Hurt, Kathleen Turner Making his feature film debut, Lawrence Kasdan wrote and directed this tense, provocative thriller, starring William Hurt as a small-town Florida lawyer and Kathleen Turner as the wealthy married woman who seduces him. During a searing summer heat wave, the two begin a passionate affair only to become frustrated at the notion that everything could be perfect if only her rich husband were not in the picture. The heat outside and their torrid relationship ignites a premeditation to murder, as the two lovers scheme to kill Turner’s husband and live happily ever after with all of his money. Co-starring Mickey Rourke, Ted Danson and Richard Crenna, Kasdan’s first film was the first of many critically acclaimed and award-winning films the director would produce.


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