Where the Crawdads Sing Review
Where there's a popular best-selling novel, there's almost always a Hollywood adaptation sure to follow soon after. Such is the case with Delia Owen's hit novel Where the Crawdads Sing. The novel debuted in 2018 and quickly became a huge success. No less than four years later a film version makes its way into theaters today with Reese Witherspoon producing and relative newcomer Olivia Newman directing. Can the adaptation live up to the expectations of fans of the novel? As someone who did not read the book, I cannot say how the film works as an adaptation of its source material. Instead, I can only give my thoughts on Where the Crawdads Sing as a film from an impartial observer's perspective.
Daisy Edgar-Jones stars as Kya, a girl with a troubled past who is facing an even murkier future. She's wanted for the murder of Chase, the all-American boy next door in their close-knit town. Kya, on the other hand, is the town pariah who seemingly has no friends or family to vouch for her. The town calls her "The Marsh Girl" because she lives out on her own on the edge of the wilderness. She's almost like a wild animal to them, or a myth and most everyone steers clear. Kaya's story flashbacks to her past to show the audience what made her the person she is. Her past is interwoven with the murder trial of Chase as the two lawyers seek to get to the bottom of what happened.
Where the Crawdads Sing feels like a cross between a Nicholas Sparks movie and To Kill A Mockingbird. Whether or not that works for you as a viewer, I think your mileage may vary. It's easy to write Crawdads off as just another period piece Southern love story with beautiful scenery, but Kya and her story are a bit more compelling than that. Her past is tragic, and she is instantly sympathetic even when on the surface, she appears feral. The viewer is kept in constant suspense of her guilt or innocence as if we ourselves are members of her jury trying to gauge her character. For me, this film worked because I always felt engaged in the story, even if I sensed that its book counterpart was able to go into much more depth. Daisy Edgar-Jones is burdened in carrying much of the film and she does a good job with a role that I'm sure is much easier to convey on paper. Kya is so damaged and has been through so much, she's incredibly guarded and doesn't want to let anyone in. That's not the easiest type of main character to have in a film, but she pulls off the performance with enough warmness not to seem cold. The supporting cast around her is all solid as well. David Strathairn in particular as Kya's defense lawyer really gives off an unexpected kindness that is much needed for the character.
Where the Crawdads Sing is an easy watch for women who happen to love both murder podcasts and romance films. It may not improve upon its source material (though again, I really couldn't say), but it's an entertaining period drama anchored by a solid performance from Daisy Edgar-Jones. Plus the whole thing is nice to look at. While it's definitely flawed (the ending doesn't give quite the payoff we feel promised throughout), you could certainly do worse. You could just be watching pure Nicholas Sparks. Or you could go down the rabbit hole and find out more about the novel's author.