‘The Dry’ Is a Mystery Full of Little Rabbit Holes

The movie, based on the 2016 bestseller by Jane Harper, stars Eric Bana as Aaron Falk, a federal police officer called back to his hometown of Kiewarra, in Australia’s Western Victoria, by a stark, accusatory letter. “Luke lied. You lied. Be at the funeral.” Luke: Aaron’s childhood friend, now dead, apparently by his own hand. So are his wife and oldest child. Only an infant remains.

The Dry is set amid a long drought — a dry spell that has drawn on for nearly a year, leaving so many of the landmarks of Aaron and Luke’s youth, including the creek that was once the site of a death in which both men were implicated as teenagers, completely dry. The body of the now-dead Luke was found in what was once a pond, terrain now moistened only by the spattering of blood his body left behind.

Suffice it to say that it’s not easy to return to a town in which you are still broadly believed, by those who remember, to be a murderer. Not even if you’re now a federal officer. Aaron’s not even supposed to be investigating his old friend’s murder-suicide. But of course his one-night stay gets extended, then extended again, as the details don’t quite add up — and as the memories of that earlier mystery, of just what happened between him, Luke, their friend Gretchen (played, as an adult, by Genevieve O’Reilly), and their deceased friend Ellie flood back.

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What this means for the movie is, ultimately, the spilling out of many secrets — a few too many, really, for only but the most directly relevant revelations to carry much weight. Gambling, a secret gay romance, a paternity surprise — you almost need a full season of television for any of it to really offer the kick in the ass, the punch in the gut, that each of these threads deserves. But there are grace notes, largely among the actors. Bana and O’Reilly make their roles, which don’t always go to the most surprising of places, work well enough that they carry us through the movie on solid footing. Joe Klocek, as the young Aaron we see in flashbacks, is impressively vulnerable. Matt Nable makes for a good local antagonist.