It is safe to say that this film relied on word of mouth. It may have been a bestselling novel but there was surprisingly little information about this film up until a couple weeks before it was released. I’m also certain that the film what you constantly that it was a best-selling novel, I’m mean look at the poster, even that looks like the cover of a book. Nevertheless, something adaptation can hopefully be trusted to bring to the table is a great story. With that said, this film does have a likeable lead, however not everything that is great about the story translates well off the pages.
Let’s get out of the way, what is hands down the most compelling element of the film, it’s lead. Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones) lives in a house in the marsh of North Carolina. Growing up she’s had to endure an abusive father, her family leaving and having to survive on her own. She stands accused of murder and throughout her life, we see how she has been kicked down by almost everyone she knows and dubbed “The Marsh Girl” by them. This character is the absolute driving force of the film, you know exactly how bad a life she had led up to this point and with this knowledge, there is a strong personal, empathetic connection to her. You want her to be found not guilty of murder because she’s been kicked down most days of her life. Daisy Edgar-Jones really sells the frailness of Kya, she is incredibly shy, especially around people who live in the rural area of Barkley Cove, the town near the marsh.
On the subject of location, Where the Crawdads Sing also benefits from having very pleasant cinematography, especially in scenes set in the marshlands. There’s a bit of dialogue at the beginning where it says in the marsh, the water flows into the sky. It’s certainly shot to give that effect, but even the greenery is pleasant to watch. You get as sucked into the beauty of the scenery as Kya, which along with the performances, makes this melancholy story more engaging. I also felt the production design on Kya’s house was immaculate in projecting its surroundings. Although we see the not-so-pleasant things that have happened in that house, if you saw it on Airbnb, you’d like to stay there.
The film has a lot to say about how we treat people because they are or live a different way from the norm. Although there is evidence that suggests Kya may have been involved in the murder, the real reason why the townspeople of Barkley Cove pin the blame on her is that she’s not “one of them”. This comes to light more than often in the film’s courtroom scenes, with are fine, though they’re not too different from other courtroom scenes we’ve watched before.
Before watching this film, I was taken back to the time when I reviewed another adaptation of a best seller, The Goldfinch, which I hated, mostly because I felt that there was a lot more in the book that I wasn’t experiencing in the film, Where the Crawdads Sings has similar issues. Aside from the murder mystery and the two romances, this film has a few subplots that could add depth to the story, but they turn out to be nothing more than red herrings. For instance, there is a point in the film where we learn about property developers that threatened Kya’s house, so she has to raise enough money to pay back taxes so she can officially own the land. So how does this subplot go? She raises the money…and that’s it. There’s no race against time, no conflict between her and the property developers, nothing. That’s just one of several subplots that go nowhere and it leaves what should be a story packed full of depth, pretty shallow.
Before the conclusion of the film, I was ready to say that Where the Crawdads Sing wasn’t great, but not terrible either, but then came the ending. I’m being very careful with how I can explain it to you without spoilers, but the ending throws away all the time you spent building a personal connection with Kya in the bin. To say that I was infuriated by the ending is putting it lightly. I don’t think the filmmakers predicted how the audience would respond and feel in the final few minutes of the film.
In all honesty though, Where the Crawdads Sings only works if you can have a personal connection with everything the film presents. This is easy to do with Kya and the many, many dialogues about outsiders and people in their own shells, but impossible with most other moments. I really felt a missed opportunity to make this story have as much weight as, I’m sure, the novel has. Kya undoubtedly propels this film forward, supported by some decent performances, including from Daisy Edgar-Jones herself. However, by the end of the film, it all feels as if the bond between the audience and the character is worthless. It’s been a long time since I’ve been let down by an ending of a film.
Final Result: 4/10 – Below Average
Have you seen Where the Crawdads Sing? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: DC League of Super-Pets