At the opening of The Dry, Roadshow Films latest thriller starring Eric Bana, Genevieve O’Reilly, Keir O’Donnell and a cast of up-and-coming young actors, I was immediately triggered. As a farmer’s daughter, repressed memories of heart-breaking drought begun to flood back. My stomach turned, I was suddenly emotional. Yet, completely hooked for the next 117 minutes.
Adapted from Jane Harper’s award-winning novel of the same name, The Dry follows Federal Police officer Aaron Falk (played by Eric Bana), who returns to his hometown after 20 years to attend the funeral of his childhood friend, who allegedly murdered his wife and child before taking his own life. A victim of the madness that has ravaged this community after more than a decade of drought. Falk stays to investigate the crime, but his presence unearths old wounds.
“It’s a real challenge to make a detective mystery, I hadn’t worked in that genre before, it’s not a genre that Australian cinema does that often”, Director Robert Connolly tells GRAZIA.
Video edit: Kimberlee Kessler
The film takes place in the Wimmera Region, Victoria, where during production in early 2019 the drought had no signs of breaking. In turn, the further angst and tension from the storyline was further reverberated by the harsh landscape; its own character. I’m told by the director water was being trucked in to the towns that housed cast and crew. And often, according to members of the cast, the set was dressed with fake plants and lush greenery to signify flashback scenes.
“It literally felt like it was never going to rain again”, Bana says. “It was so incredibly dry and hot out there.”
For Bana – best known for his roles in Hulk and Dirty John – it was his first Australian production in 12 years, a homecoming not only for his character but for himself. “I forgot that it was actually possible to go to work without a 20-hour flight. It made me very envious of those actors, British and American who never ever have to do an accent their entire career. Playing in Australia didn’t even feel like work really.”
Speaking on the themes of the film, Connolly reiterates this notion. “What happens when you leave somewhere and what happens when you stay somewhere? There’s so many of us that choose to leave… for a lot of people they stay and I think these are the big questions of the world where people are moving around and the journey we go on.”
Emulating Jane Harper’ s novel, the audience are taken through a high-octane ‘who-dunnit’ plot, where the characters – in addition to the challenges of drought and bushfire – are confronted with past mistakes and new consequences. Speaking to Claude Scott-Mitchell, Sam Corlett, Keir O’Donnell, Genevieve O’Reilly and Bebe Bettencourt, the film has forced the cast to reflect on their own past.
We pen the question: what would you tell your younger self if you had the chance?
O’Reilly who has appeared in major blockbusters such as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Matrix Reloaded and fronts Gretchen in The Dry, had a simple answer: “Stay true to yourself.” Scott-Mitchell who plays the ‘Young Gretchen’ and is at the peak of her acting career told GRAZIA she would tell her younger self, “to dare … you always learn something from that.”
And as for who truly committed the crime in question, well, the cast also has an opinion on that. Alternatively (we also highly-recommend) watching The Dry in cinemas from January 1.