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Where the Crawdads Sing (A Movie Review)


Starring Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickinson, Michael Hyatt, Sterling Macer Jr., David Strathairn, Jayson Warner Smith, Garret Dillahunt, Ahna O'Reilly, Eric Ladin,Joe Chrest, Logan Macrae, Victoria Paige Watkins, Charlie Talbert, Jojo Regina, Caroline Cole, Luke David Blumm, Bill Kelly, Toby Nichols, Sarah Durn and Blue Clarke.

Screenplay by Lucy Alibar.

Directed by Olivia Newman.

Distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing. 125 minutes. Not Rated.

I belong to an online book forum, and in the past year or so, very few books have inspired as much debate as Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing. Many members of the group swear by the book, calling it a masterpiece. Others snipe that it is overrated and kind of dull. Personally, I don’t know; I have not read the book, yet, although I have definitely been considering it. Therefore, the film version of Crawdads is my first exposure to the actual story. And I get that films are rarely as good as the books that they are based upon.

On the evidence of the movie version, it is pretty good, if far from perfect. It’s an intriguing story with interesting twists and turns, but it also is a bit manipulative – and at least one part of the twist ending makes very little sense. Maybe it is explained better in the book.

However, we are reviewing the film, not the book. Just looking at it as a movie, the final question is – do you like the movie or not? And, for the most part, yes, I did enjoy Where the Crawdads Sing.

It tells the story of Kya Clark (seen here from childhood to elderly years, but mostly focusing on her young adult years, where she is played by Daisy Edgar-Jones). She lives deep in the bayous of Louisiana in a well-hidden shack with her abusive father (Garrett Hedlund), her shell-shocked mother (Ahna O'Reilly) and a few brothers and sisters. (One or two of those may have been cousins.) It is a poverty-stricken, dangerous world, mostly detached from the local town.

Dad is an angry drunk, and his rages and abuse eventually drives the mother away, then two of the children, then another one, leaving Kya alone with dad. Eventually he disappears too, leaving Kya to care for herself from the time she is a tween. She makes a few friends – a local shopkeeper and his wife, a local lawyer (David Straithairn), and a young boy her age (who she will eventually fall in love with when he grows into being Taylor John Smith), but mostly she is a recluse and looked at by the town as their personal Boo Radley – she is referred to by locals as Marsh Girl.

By the time she has become a young woman, she is mostly comfortable with her ostracism. Then when a local former athlete is murdered deep in the bayou, the town decides that the strange marsh girl must be responsible. At first the charge seems ridiculous, but the more we learn leads the audience to realize that it is not quite as unlikely as it immediately seemed. Kya had a brief secret relationship with the guy, who turns out to be very similar to her dad temperamentally.

Most of the film is a courtroom drama, with the film flashing back to give the audience more and more information about what happened. The southern courtroom scenes are sort of reminiscent to To Kill a Mockingbird, which I assume is totally intended.

Some plot points here don’t make that much sense. Wouldn’t at least one of her family members – particularly her mom and her closest brother – bring Kya with them when they escaped rather than abandoning her with her abusive father? How does a girl who didn’t learn to read until she was in her late teens – and she mostly taught herself – become a recognized and published expert in the flora and fauna of the swamp? And like I said earlier, the final twist ending sort of strains credulity.

Still, although it is far from a perfect film, Where the Crawdads Sing is a pretty compelling tale. And from what I have been told, it is fairly faithful to the events in the book. Now I guess I should read it to get a deeper understanding of the motivations behind the characters.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: July 15, 2022.

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