Review: The Dry by Jane Harper – book to film

I read Jane Harper’s The Dry when it first came out and really enjoyed it. So I was excited to go and see a special screening of the movie at Cinema Nova in Melbourne this week. It was also the first time I’d been near a cinema, or any kind of cultural institution since March (pre-COVID) which engendered a sense of novelty into the occasion.

Three members of a family are murdered in a small, parched, Victorian country town. This is the second significant tragedy to strike the town in twenty years and Kiewarra is seething with a hostile undercurrent of mistrust. The first incident involved the drowning of our protagonists teenage sweetheart twenty years earlier. Federal cop Aaron Falk returns to the town for the first time since the girls death to attend the funeral of his childhood friend, Luke Hadler, after he receives a note from Luke’s father that says ‘You lied. Luke lied. Be at the funeral’.

It is believed that Luke killed his wife and son, and then himself in a murder-suicide. When Aaron arrives Luke’s parents ask him to look into what happened. Aaron reluctantly agrees and finds himself trying to navigate local hostility to solve two crimes.

It is only four years since The Dry won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. It’s been a speedy process from book to film after filmmaker Robert Connolly read the book and loved it. Connolly’s filmography includes: All Men are Liars, The Monkey’s Mask, Three Dollars, Balibo, Paper Planes, and The Bank.

Eric Bana plays Aaron and there’s plenty of pensive, moody moments of pent up emotion as he struggles with his own inner demons as well as those of the town. Other cast members include Genevieve O’Reilly, (Glitch, Rogue One), Keir O’Donnell (American Sniper, Ray Donovan) and John Polson (Tropfest founder)

The film was shot in the Wimmera and Castelmaine and is a great one to see on a big screen to get that sense of the expansiveness of regional Australia. Due for release in January 2021.

Book review: The Survivors by Jane Harper

In The Survivors, Jane Harper takes us to an isolated small town on the Tasmanian coast riddled with a labyrinthe of dangerous caves that fill and empty with the tide. Getting trapped in there at high tide means certain death.

Evelyn Bay is a small, struggling, but close knit community, reliant on tourist visiting for whale watching and diving an old ship wreck in the bay. It has a pub and a police station that is about to be closed because not much happens.

Keiran Elliott left Evelyn Bay years ago, after his brother drowned at sea. He believes his was responsible for what happened to his brother and struggles guilt. He has returned with his wife and baby to visit his parents. Keiran’s father is suffering from early onset dementia and needs care so they are about to sell the family home and move because of this.

The Survivors, three statues commissioned in tribute to the 54 passengers and crew who died in a shipwreck a century earlier, stand as a mythic presence in the town. The waves lap at their feet, almost, but never completely consuming them at high tide. They are a constant reminder of the oceans ferocity, and auger when it is and is not safe to be on the beach.

Everyone knows everyone’s business. Towns people still grieve the losses of some of its members in the crashing waves during a terrible storm a decade earlier. When a second tragedy occurs – a young woman visiting during a break from university who is found dead on the beach – long buried secrets and grievances begin to emerge.

The police investigate the girls death while the townsfolk go wild with speculation on social media. Anger at a newcomer author who bought the house of the local landscaper’s grandmother, and ripped up the garden almost comes to blows in the pub. Animosity and guilt about who’s fault it was that three community members died in the storm all those years ago simmers near the surface, straining long held friendships.

The mystery unfolds as the characters grapple with grief, guilt and regrets that make some stronger, whilst others unravel. Another good read from Jane Harper.