Rating:15 Cast: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickenson and David Strathairn. Directed by Olivia Newman. Written by Lucy Alibar (screenplay) and Delia Owens (based on the novel by). Length: 125mins.
The film is set in the beautiful and dangerous marshland of North Carolina in the 50s and 60s, a place ‘where the crawdads sing’. Edgar-Jones plays Kya, a young woman who has basically raised herself in a remote shack deep in the marshland. She’s had to learn to survive when her drunken and violent Pa drove her mother and siblings away after years of domestic abuse; that is until her Pa dies leaving her to fend for herself. As a teenager Kya is basically on her own, making a living by selling mussels to the local store, roaming wild and free on the wetlands in her boat and drawing pictures of the nature that she’s so at one with. This unusual lifestyle separates Kya from the ‘normality’ of the townsfolk and she is treated with contempt by most, with few allies and, once an adult, catches the attention of two young men. The first, Tate, taught her to read and encouraged her artistic talents but soon went off to study. The second, Chase, picks up the pieces of her somewhat broken heart and does his best to win her affection…
The opening scenes of the film show the discovery of a dead body in the marshland, the body belonging to Chase. He’s a popular man about town and everyone is in shock at his demise. Considering the location of his body Kya or ‘the marsh girl’ as she’s known becomes the number one suspect and we find our plot. Kya is arrested and the film jumps between her trial and her story. While in the present we see evidence against her and the noble defence of the outcast girl, broken up appropriately with Kya’s upbringing, experiences and life as a young woman all leading up to the moment that Chase lost his life.
I find films like this to be so interesting. First and foremost, this being based on a best selling book with a large fan base – often when popular books are made into movies there’s an element of disappointment at the result, however every single fan of the book that I spoke to said it was just as good as the book, a rare situation indeed! Secondly, I was baffled by the majority of the critics reviews being so very negative. Yes, this film is not perfect, but for some reason critics seem to focus on unusual elements such as costume choices or details around Kya’s hygiene rather than the plot, performances, direction and cinematography. It seems as though there was an agreed upon opinion for this film from the very beginning, one which I’m pleased to say I disagree with and in speaking to vast audiences, so do the masses.
I do agree that perhaps the ending is a little cheesy and that there were definitely moments that felt slow, but as a general rule the movie was engaging, interesting and shot beautifully. A personal criticism is the choice in names for the male leads, I found myself forgetting who was Tate and who was Chase as their names were so similar but that is likely just me and not really a criticism at all! Where the Crawdads Sing is a really solid film and I would highly recommend, it’s definitely one to watch to form your own opinions on but it is worth noting that it does include some upsetting scenes.