Venice Review: Paolo Virzi’s ‘Dry’

A disparate group of characters collide in Dry (Siccita), a semi-apocalyptic drama premiering out of competition at the Venice Film Festival. Paolo Virzi directs this glossy portmanteau film that assembles a strong cast for overlapping storylines and satirical social comment. 

The setting is urban Rome, where it hasn’t rained for three years. The drought has become a political issue, with commentators queueing up to offer theories and to point the finger of blame. The social divide is increasing, with wealthy citizens finding a way around the water shortage, while others go thirsty. Hospitals are overloaded with patients, many suffering from lethargy, and apparently related to an influx of cockroaches.

There’s clearly an environmental issue here, but most people we encounter are too self-involved to think about that. The drought is the backdrop to their stories, and the impact of it puts their issues into sharp focus. 

There’s Alfredo (Tomasso Ragno), an actor who’s obsessed with his online following, and ignoring the fact that his son could be dangerous. Then there’s the immigrant, Sembene (Malich Cisse) who’s pounced upon by a media trying to tick diversity boxes. There’s also the hospital doctor, Sara (Claudia Pandolfi); the prisoner (Silvio Orlando), who inadvertently escapes captivity; and a relatively small role for Monica Bellucci as Valentina, an influential woman who luxuriates in a hot tub with ice in her drink. And there are more — many of whom appear to have psychopathic tendencies. Pregnant women remind us to wonder what future awaits the unborn. 

It’s a dark vision of selfish people — the only ones really questioning anything or offering useful suggestions are the young, and/or refugees. Does it go anywhere? Not particularly. Is it entertaining? Broadly, yes.

This is a slick film with plenty of intriguing characters and the occasional darkly funny moment. At its sharpest, it recalls Don’t Look Up; at its most vague it’s more like Thomas Vinterberg’s It’s All About Love. It doesn’t pack a huge punch, but it’s a diverting drama whose topical themes range from the environment to the way people deal with a pandemic.

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