Where The Crawdads Sing becomes a motion picture thanks to Reese Witherspoon and her book club.
To put it bluntly, Delia Owens 2018 novel, ‘Where the Crawdads Sing,’ has been a bit of a phenomenon. It’s a New York Times Best Seller that rose to prominence as a selection in Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Book Club. Thanks to Witherspoon, it has become one of the best-selling books of all time. So it was only a matter of time before a film adaptation was released. And, of course, it is produced by none other than Witherspoon herself.
The film focuses on Kya Clarke played by Daisy Edgar-Jones. She was abandoned by her family at a young age in the marshes of a coastal North Carolina town, forced to make her way in a world that has cast her out. Kya has come to be known as ‘The Marsh Girl’ by town residents, people who Kya herself wants nothing to do with, barring a select few. So when the body of a well-known young man is found in the marshes, all fingers point to Kya as the culprit. The film then splits into showcasing Kya’s history, intertwined with the present-day murder trial.
This film will sit well among fans of movies based on Nicholas Sparks’ novels. She is known for books such as ‘The Notebook’ or ‘Safe Haven’. Sometimes the plot and performances border on melodramatic, which is par for the course in these book-to-movie adaptations. It could potentially be difficult to relate to a girl who spends most of her time in the marsh avoiding human interaction. Still, Edgar-Jones manages to make the character interesting and sympathetic in a situation that is a bit farfetched in its premise (although she looks a little TOO clean and put-together at times, given her living situation).
Two relationships sit at the plot’s core:
The first with Tate played by Taylor John Smith. He is a handsome boy with dreams of going to college, and Kya’s first true love. Smith is exactly what the story asks for as Tate. He is handsome, charming, and kind, and there’s not much more to him. He does fine with the material presented, but there isn’t much depth to the performance. The second is Chase (Harris Dickinson), whose intentions are slightly more malevolent than those of the trustworthy Tate. Dickinson has the harder job here. He is tasked with bringing a sinister undertone to the character while also being charming enough that it’s believable Kya could fall for him. Dickinson succeeds with the task and then some, comfortable with becoming the villain when the story calls for it.
The film itself is a bit washed out in appearance. It’s a period piece and mostly takes place in a marsh, so the visuals quickly become dull in a film that’s overlong. The performances are enough to hold it all together (shout out to David Strathairn as the likable lawyer willing to go the distance to keep Kya from spending life in prison), but the film takes its time in getting to a satisfying resolution of the lingering intrigue that slowly trots along. Perhaps this is a matter of expectation on my part. I was hoping for more of a murder mystery in a story that’s ultimately more concerned with the romance and drama within the core of the three leads.
I give ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ 3 out of 5 stars. Fans will be content with this faithful adaptation of the hit novel. However, those hoping for a deeper mystery might find something lacking in this overlong, slow burn. It will be in theaters on Friday, July 15, 2022.
the film has some depictions of sexual assault that could be difficult for some to watch.