Where The Crawdads Sing – Movie Review • Movies.ie


The parcel: North Carolina, 1960s. A small town in the South lives in doubt and possible fear of the presence of Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones) nearby in the swamps. A recluse few understand or care to know, the swamp is her world and she identifies with nature more than people. However, she has a close friendship with Tate (Taylor John Smith), but he leaves in time. When Chase (Harris Dickinson), the town’s golden boy, takes an interest in Kya and tries to tame this seemingly wild animal, he ends up being a corpse in the swamps. All fingers are pointing at Kya, but she and her attorney Tom (David Strathairn) are working to clear her name in the courtroom…

The verdict: There are many pitfalls in adapting a bestselling book into a potential summer-oriented blockbuster, including how to get the tone and execution right while keeping readers and audiences happy. However, that didn’t stop producer Reese Witherspoon from having a crack at Where The crawdads = crawfish To sing by Delia Owens. The American slang title doesn’t make sense to an international audience, but Sony kept it nonetheless, perhaps for brand recognition. The oft-repeated moniker The Marsh Girl sounds better, since that’s what it’s ultimately about. It’s a Southern-fried slice of period melodrama, emphasizing sweetness over drama. It moves back and forth in time to peel away the gradual layers of its seemingly misunderstood main character. Although it positions itself as a courtroom exhibit and murder investigation, it happens more below the surface.

Like Kya, Olivia Newman’s film stands in the shadows. He works his way through his plot machinations and attempts to throw numerous red herrings to distract the audience from the smell – or maybe the smell. The screenplay adaptation by Lucy Alibar is never quite sure what to think of Kya. Is she a quiet idiot, a misunderstood outcast, a truly talented young woman with no experience of life and how to run the world outside of her own little swampy world? She’s all and yet none of them, as the script never really lands on a precise definition of who Kya is as a character. She is inexperienced with men but does not behave that way at all towards the two men who are actively interested in her. His words don’t match his actions, not helped by an ill-judged final reel that cuts through too much storyline too quickly, then lands somewhere else entirely. Some might say that’s the point of the story, but that doesn’t ring true as a movie in the round. To pull off something like this, the director and her team really need to earn the trust of the public. Filmmakers are walking backwards on this front.

Despite a lively performance by Daisy Edgar-Jones that anchors the film well, this brilliant adaptation tries too hard to be serious and well-meaning. All of the characters are white or black in the morality stakes, essentially coming across as either too good or too bad – a rather simplistic approach to a heinous crime. The characters are more likely to be fifty shades of gray. Speaking of which, the film barely simmers on the love front. The lack of chemistry between Edgar-Jones and the two male actors in the love triangle is all too obvious and too innocently chaste. Where is Paul Verhoeven when you need him to spice up a film adaptation and turn it into a steamy Southern tale of love, lust and murder under the clammy, oppressive haze of summer heat? The ending is reminiscent of one of his films, but without the guts to make it compelling. Alongside Edgar-Jones, the ever-reliable David Strathairn escapes unscathed. Meanwhile, the other actors and filmmakers wade through the swamps in search of a believable explanation. Where the crawdads = crawfish To sing may be a bestseller, but the movie in the book is an underheated cooking pot that’s too inefficient to function properly.

Rating: 2 / 5

Review by Gareth O’Connor

Boiler underheated

Where The Crawdads Sing (US / 15A / 125 mins)

In short: Boiler underheated

Directed by Olivia Newman.

With Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickinson, David Strathairn, Garret Dillahunt.


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