Film Review – Where the Crawdads Sing
Where the Crawdads Sing
Where the Crawdads Sing (2022) is based on the book by the same name by Delia Owens. The book was published in 2018 and perpetually seen on my social media feeds, and it seemed like everyone read this book except me. If you are looking for a book-to-film comparison, it won’t be this review.
The trailer for Where the Crawdads Sing did not come across as enthralling or something I needed to rush out and see. However, given the huge success of the book, those who read it and loved it will more than likely be heading out to the theatres this weekend to see it. For the Swifties, the new song by Taylor Swift is another draw, but alas, the song is only used in the closing credits. Even before its release, the film is already primed for success.
Directed by Olivia Newman and with a screenplay by Lucy Alibar, Where the Crawdads Sing follows the story of Kya Clark (Daisy Edgar-Jones) from childhood to her twenties. Locally known in a small town in North Carolina as “The Marsh Girl,” Kya lives a life of solitude, one not chosen but delivered to her by the circumstances of her parents. Her Ma (Ahna O’Reilly) and Pa (Garret Dillahunt) were in an abusive relationship. Her Ma left after being beaten, and her siblings left Kya also when subjected to an abusive Pa left to his own devices. Kya survived Pa by staying quiet and out of his way until he left one day and didn’t come back.
Apparently, in the 1950s, a small child living on her own in a marsh is completely fine and not at all concerning. The local community decides to chide her for things out of her control. Thankfully, a couple running a local market, Mabel (Michael Hyatt) and Jumpin’ (Sterling Macer, Jr.), take it upon themselves to look after her. They give her donated clothes and pay her for the pounds of mussels she digs up to keep herself fed and gas in her boat motor.
Jumping forward to the 1960s, she is accused of the murder of Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson), primarily because she was associated with him and is an outcast. Luckily, a local retired lawyer Tom Milton (David Strathairn), steps up to defend this misunderstood woman. Through her accusation, we learn her story and how she got to this plot point. Unfortunately, the trial is unimportant to telling her story of who she is, only her future past the verdict. It is not the central storyline.
As she grows older, Kya is still afraid of strangers. Through an odd trading items game, she re-meets Tate (Taylor John Smith). He was a friend of her brother’s when she was young. Because of his prior kindness to her, she lets him in, and he goes about teaching her how to read and essentially schooling her in many subjects. Of course, it turns into a love story with morals embedded into it when Tate pulls back and doesn’t go “all the way” with her because she might be viewed as damaged goods. The love story doesn’t end well, and Kya is back to not trusting people, especially men. Somehow, an arrogant, rich boy named Chase wiggles his way into her heart despite the numerous red flags.
The film is surprisingly well-acted. Daisy Edgar-Jones is wide-eyed and innocent as could be as Kya. Her tentativeness is prevalent, and her curious mind is plain on her face. Who knew an English actor could pull off an upper-class Southern accent as well as Harris Dickinson. He pulled off a complex character that has the audience trying to determine constantly if he is telling the truth or not to Kya. Sterling Macer, Jr., as Jumpin’, managed to be one of the most caring people to Kya and an unexpected moment of vulnerability had me in tears.
After processing the film’s story, it is clear that Kya is supposed to be seen as a strong, independent woman. However, she only finds education, success, and fulfillment through the help of men. She’s not sure of herself, which is okay, but she finds her footing and happiness through her two boyfriends. I’m not sure if the book comes off the same way as the film, but it undermines who Kya is, to begin with as a young child. This theme somewhat resolves itself at the end of the film, but treading into that goes into significant spoiler territory.
Where the Crawdads Sing packs a lot of material into its two-hour runtime, It doesn’t feel long. Enough things are happening with Kya and the people she interacts with to keep the story interesting. However, it’s not an exciting film. It is simply a story about a girl that society forgot and how she grew up in the world, love troubles and all. She was dealt a heavy hand and had to learn about the world from her interactions with other people, some of whom were not too kind to her or deemed her a stupid girl ripe for taking advantage of in terms of her supposed naivety. She proves them wrong with strength and a cunning mind. I have to admit that the film got me, especially the last ten minutes. I just don’t love the male savior complex that is the key to her salvation. I know times were different back in the 1960s, but Kya already had strength and determination before a worthy man ever crossed her path.