The Dry Land is a film with promise, promise because it has a wonderful, young cast of up and coming actors such as America Ferrera, Ryan O’Nan, and Jason Ritter among others. The movie is doing quite well on the Film Festival circuit with such accolades as an official selection at Sundance and others. The film, directed by Ryan Piers Williams follows the return of United States soldier James, played quite nicely by Ryan O’Nan to his small community. He has his wife, a dog, and a job that many would hate, working at a slaughter house. On the surface this is what James has upon his return as a United States Soldier. What he also has though is suppressed memories, and some tragedies he would just as soon forget. As a result of these difficulties and others, James has some emotional issues to deal with.
The Dry Land looks like a good independent film bordering on the edge of greatness. I suspect it depends on what side of the fence one is on which will determine how one sees and views this movie. As for me, I couldn’t help but notice how close it was to greatness in some areas, and yet so far in others. One of my biggest pet peeves in movies is the quality of sound and the quality of lighting. Unfortunately, The Dry Land at times failed miserably in both areas. There were times there were obvious weaknesses in both areas. I was also disappointed in the plot and advancement of the film. While dealing with some tough subject matters, it fell just a tad short in the quality of final product presented on screen.
The movie follows James on his return home from war and the ultimate conflict that develops between him and his wife. While he obviously loves her, there is a lack of understanding on her part as to his new persona, and a lack of knowledge and understanding on his part as to his current state of mind. The exploration of understanding between the characters almost makes this film worthwhile. I personally admired the willingness of the character to seek out help once he understood his own need for understanding his war experiences. He has experienced things in war he doesn’t remember, and those things are impacting who he is, and how he relates to others. These realities cause conflict with not just himself but with his friends.
The Dry Land does adequately explore the horrors of war, after the return home. Many, believe that war ends when you get on the plane to come home. The reality is though, that for many there are the nightmares, the explosive anger issues, and the relationship issues that can come about once the person returns to the so called ‘normalcy’ of life. While this concept is evident within many a returning soldier from war, one can also be challenged to think about and reflect on the unseen horrors and experiences of those we come into contact with. While many soldiers and victims of sexual abuse have experienced unimaginable horrors that impact their psyche, others in life have experienced things we may not be aware of. Here the movie impacts a couple of areas that are somewhat powerful. One is the willingness of one to recognize their own weaknesses, and the other is the sacrificial love of others that has the potential to come about. Unfortunately for some, that sacrificial love is all too late, for others, it is just in time. Each individual has a need to figure when and how they fit into the spectrum, when do we need help and are we willing to go after it, and if at a semi healthy place, when do we respond to others who need help, and will we respond. It is when we recognize the greatest love we can display for another is to step between them and a life threatening situation that we can ultimately come to a place where we can save a life. It reminds me of the concept in the Bible that states, ‘No greater love has anyone than this; that they would lay down their life for another.’
I felt The Dry Land was so close to brilliance, that I could taste it. I wanted it, I hoped for it, but I felt the movie unfortunately fell just short. For many others though, they have seen what they consider a great movie with a lot of important areas that it addresses. This is one that will depend on the viewer I think. For many this movie will be long and drawn out, as the action is the interpersonal conflict among the characters. For others this movie will be an emotional, thought provoking experience that causes them to reflect on not just the ongoing horror of war, but the reality and hurt within ones own personal experiences. I can’t determine what you will think, what you will experience, I just know that for me, I left wanting more of a story, more about the background characters, and more hope. I wanted more out of The Dry Land, I just didn’t get it. I am glad others are though, I just wasn’t one of them.
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