Review by Austin Frape
The Plot: Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones), an abandoned girl who raised herself to adulthood in the dangerous marshlands of North Carolina. For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, isolating the sharp and resilient Kya from her community. As Kya opens herself to a new and startling world, she gets drawn to Tate (Taylor John Smith) and Chase (Harris Dickson) in different relationships. However, when one of them is found dead, she is immediately cast by the community as the main suspect. As the case unfolds, the verdict as to what actually happened becomes increasingly unclear, threatening to reveal the many secrets that lay within the marsh.
The Review: When describing a movie like Where the Crawdads Sing, there’s almost an expectation of an overdramatic and sappy feel-good vile in the same vain as Nell with Jodie Foster and Liam Neeson. You know, the outsider who has a special connection to the wild who isn’t crazy, just “misunderstood”, with their wide eyes whimsically looking for their Oscar. However, Crawdads, an adaptation of the book by Delia Owens, does take a much more serious tone as it explores themes of abandonment and abuse. Not that there isn’t a sappy romance/ whimsical element, there absolutely is! However, as a character-driven story, the movie does take its time to explore Kya – almost to a fault – with an excellent performance from Daisy Edgar-Jones. While it may not be as strongly written as recent roles like Normal People or Fresh, she certainly gives it her all in Crawdads. The rest of the cast do what they can to play very one-dimensional characters who are either ridiculously nice or cartoonishly villainous.
Where the Crawdads Sing left a lot of questions, the main one being “Who is this for?” According to my plus one, Crawdads follows the book very closely as it goes back and forth between a courtroom drama and childhood flashbacks, while capturing fantastic production of the ’50s and ’60s. However, the movie never feels like each storyline ties together organically. If anything, it feels like two subplots competing for attention. The movie also seems to want to advertise toward the young adult/ teenager demographic with its romantic moment and having Taylor Swift’s newest song, Carolina featured. However, the movie deals with some very heavy themes that might be a bit too confronting or dull for high schoolers. On the flip side, the movie is also too simplistic and cheesy at times for older audiences. The big reveal of the whodunnit type murder also felt like such a bait and switch, without spoiling, of course. Maybe the book reads better?
The Verdict: Overall, Where the Crawdads Sing is a somewhat engaging character drama that does approach mature themes, but has a very messy structure that feels both overplayed and simplistic at the same time. Does it deserve the critical lampooning? Not quite as the lead performance from Edgar-Jones is fantastic, and it is well made from a production point of view. If you’re after a dramatic mystery with a romantic twist filled with pretty leads, there are worse movies to watch.
Where the Crawdads Sing is in cinemas July 21.