A U.S. soldier (Ryan O'Nan) home from a traumatic tour of duty in Iraq, struggles to fall back into rhythm with the world he left in Texas. Suffering from severe memory loss, and flashbacks to the war, the troubled soldier leaves a loving wife (America Ferrera), mother (Melissa Leo) and best friend (Jason Ritter) for a cross-country road trip with an Army buddy (Wilmer Valderrama). Together with another friend (Diego Klatenhoff), James is able to add up the missing pieces. The resurfaced memories prove too much for James, triggering a violent, and emotional breakdown that threatens the home life he is fighting to rebuild.
Ugly Betty’s America Ferrera proves that she is far more than just a not-so-pretty face as she stars as the wife of a soldier returning from Iraq with post-traumatic stress. Ferrera’s performance pales immensely however when compared to that of her on screen husband, James (Ryan O’Nan) whose character seems to have repressed his memories of the war and is beginning to become quite mentally unstable because of it.
Finding his return to small town life an insufficient distraction from his PTSD and his wife choosing to move out after being awakened in the middle of the night when he unwittingly tries to strangle her, James voyages to visit friends in VA hospitals in an attempt to reconcile himself with his memories.
The Dry Land is reminiscent of the painful Vietnam home-coming movies like Coming Home (and World War 2 movie The Best Years of Our Lives) both in topic and tone, presenting a dark and agonizingly real picture of the fear and danger brought home by those who have seen the violence and destruction of war. Just as emotionally draining and powerful as its forbearers The Dry Land is not an easy film to watch, but it intellectually rewarding for those who can bare it.
For the debut movie from writer/director Ryan Piers Williams The Dry Land offers in one single film more than many directors do in a life time.