Review: Where The Crawdads Sing
Based off the 2018 Novel by Delia Owens, Where The Crawdads Sings stars Daisy Edgar-Jones stars in this Murder mystery Drama.
The Plot — Where The Crawdads Sing
Catherine ‘Kya’ Clark has been through a lot.
We meet Kya being chased by police. A man is dead, and police suspect the ‘Marsh Girl’ might be responsible. She’s poor. She’s uneducated. And, she’s isolated.
Kya faces murder charges, and has only her lawyer Tom Milton, played by David Strathairn fighting for her.
From the marsh/swamp areas of the North Carolina coast, young Kya’s family doesn’t have much money. Young Kya, played by Jojo Regina, witnesses trauma that leaves her the only person left in her house.
And, once on her own, Young Kya must figure out how to put food on the table, make money, and stay safe in a Marsh where everything is fighting to survive.
Grown up Kya, played by Daisy Edgar-Jones, faces the justice system for the death of her boyfriend, Chase, played by Harris Dickinson. As the trial progresses, we see Kya’s life in flashbacks, and see all she had to overcome just to get to this point.
The Good — Where The Crawdad’s Sing
All six of our prominent characters are well cast. British actress Daisy Edgar-Jones plays Kya from roughly 17 -25 years old.
Jones plays Kya with a subtle southern accent, and an introverted, quiet persona. Unlike many films of this type, Jones doesn’t play Kya as odd, or specially skilled, or suffering from a disability to overcome. She plays her relatively straight ahead and flying below the radar.
Kya’s suitors, played by Taylor John Smith and Harris Dickinson, have many surface similarities, but differ quite a bit. Smith plays the traditional and good hearted Tate, while Dickinson plays the ill fated and more than a little sleazy Chase.
Both make an impact in limited screen time, and both represent the different ways that people have let Kya down over the years. Both men also avoid slipping into caricature, and create unique characters that still fit within the established archetypes.
Sterling Macer, Jr. and Michael Hyatt play ‘Jumpin’’ and ‘Mabel’, owners of the local supply store; and basically, Mya’s only friends. Mosts see Mya as an ‘other’ type person, but Jumpin’ and Mabel see her as the lost and abandoned child she is. The treat her with kindness and friendship, offering her a community where others reject her on sight.
The Bad — Where The Crawdads Sing
Director Olivia Newman and Editor Alan Edward Bell do serviceable work on Crawdad, but there is something missing. There is an internal logical consistency to their work, clear skill and care for their craft, and a consistent vision for the story they are trying to tell.
However, there is a fine line between deliberate pacing and just plain, old slow. And unfortunately, Where The Crawdads Sing falls under the ‘Slow’ category.
The total run time of ‘Crawdads’ is a shade over two hours (125 minutes), but given the limited plot line and focus of the script, the film could have easily been 20–30 minutes shorter. The shorter run time could have told the same story more concisely, while still conveying the slow pace of life that Kya feels.
Also, a slower run time, could have kept the audiences’ attention from wandering, as often happens in longer films. For being a film largely told in flashbacks, very little connective tissue to the present is there. We simply see Kya’s childhood playing out for an extended period of time, and then a time jump to 1962 to when she’s roughly 17.
Kya’s Character Development
The filmmaking and storytelling in ‘Crawdads’ is rock solid, but one key story thread left un-explained is Kya’s education/intelligence level.
We see Young Kya near the start of the film being taught to paint by her Mom. But, when her mom and siblings leave, Kya comments about spending only one day in school her whole lift. And later, she shows that she is illiterate in 1962, when she’s roughly 17 years old, and should be in high school.
There’s a spoiler explanation built into the script, but the plot developments built off of that spoiler don’t explain the level of education and intelligence shown with her character later in the film. The neatness of her handwriting alone is enough to question the plausibility of the script alone.
One can buy into Kya’s encyclopedic knowledge of her Marsh environment, and her sketching/painting skills taught by her mother. But, she isn’t explained as being a natural genius/savant, or receiving any other formal education. Even her style of speaking seems way too high for a person with her limited education, AND socialization; having lived by herself in the Marsh for all those years.
The Review — Where The Crawdads Sing
Where The Crawdads Sing feels like a dramatic movie from the 1990’s, similar to ‘Nell’, ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’, ‘Ghosts Of Mississippi’, etc. Rather oddly, it’s based off a 2018 novel by Delia Owens, making this a movie based off a relatively new book.
The murder/mystery trope has been used many times before. And while not poorly used here, the majority of the film being told in flashbacks doesn’t really tie in with the court proceedings very much, or explain why Kya is on trial for murder.
The Casting, Directing, Editing are all done well, and flow well from scene to scene; but the film could have easily been 20–30 minutes shorter without sacrificing story or character development.
Interestingly, there is a small role by actor Sam Anderson at the end of the film. He’s best known from Oscar-Winning Best Picture Forrest Gump as the guy who **ahem** breathes funny **ahem** while meeting with Forrest’s Momma over him going to public school. He also was in the long running sitcom ‘Perfect Strangers’ as Mr. Gorpley, the ineffectual middle manager over the main characters.
I know him best as a comedic actor, so to see him in a straight ahead dramatic role near the end of the film is a bit of a trip.
Overall, Where The Crawdads Sing is solidly made as films go, but it’s far too long given the story being told.
Also, Kya’s education level/intelligence is never fully explained. And, given her story is at the center of this film, one would hope that this would have been addressed in the over two hours of run time.
Worth watching if you love 90’s southern dramas of this style. But other than that, skip it.
Three Stars out of Five.