Where the Crawdads Sing combines two stories that seek to hook the audience in with both the protagonist’s love life and her court trial fighting for her innocence. However, the story relies far too heavily on genre clichés that make this drama particularly predictable. Where the Crawdads Sing may simply work better as a novel than a feature film.
‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ is a mysterious romance and courtroom drama
Catherine “Kya” Clark (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is a young woman who grew up in a North Carolina marsh. Her family abandoned her, leaving her to fend for herself from a young age starting in the early 1950s. However, Kya ultimately learned how to survive on her own until her friend, Tate (Taylor John Smith), progressively grows closer to her.
Where the Crawdads Sing finds a popular young man named Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson) dead near Kya’s home while she’s away. As a result, law enforcement charges her with his murder. She was always an outsider in the North Carolina community, but now she will have to rely on a jury of her peers to believe her story. Her life is in their hands.
Director Olivia Newman tackles family and abandonment
Where the Crawdads Sing puts much of its soul into its environment, making this North Carolina marsh a character of its own. Kya’s voice-over narration explores it as a place of death. However, it also naturally contains life in the surrounding area and within Kya’s personal development. The town judges her for living in the marsh, calling her “marsh girl” and creating cruel myths about what she must be like. Lucy Alibar’s screenplay digs into the dangers of assuming the worst out of people.
Kya learned her apprehensive attitudes from her abusive father (Garret Dillahunt). As a result of her Pa’s violent behavior, her family left one by one. She continues to carry that loss with her on a daily basis, simply seeking a life of safety. Kya finds solace in the marsh, even though it’s a constant reminder of what she once had. Her family abandonment ultimately translates into the way that she perceives both the world and all those she comes into contact with.
Everything changes for the protagonist when she initially begins to develop a friendship with Tate. Flashbacks also show her interactions with Chase, both of whom introduce Kya to a world she never knew was possible. However, the loneliness that ate at her soul over the years ultimately impacts the way that she perceives society and its various visitors with intentions that aren’t immediately made clear to her.
‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ is a forgettable film adaptation
Where the Crawdads Sing is certainly a Hollywood adaptation through and through. Edgar-Jones does what she can with a character that never necessarily jumps off the screen. It’s hard to believe that Kya grew up outside of civilization living in the marsh, yet has styled hair, perfect teeth, and surprisingly good personal hygiene. Every part of this world feels manufactured from the ground up.
Newman’s feature film is most successful in its depiction of the setting. The marsh holds a large amount of meaning for both the characters and the stories that the audience doesn’t get to see. This is where Where the Crawdads Sing temporarily feels real, establishing a genuine sense of location that establishes some intrigue. Unfortunately, the narrative that takes place within this setting isn’t able to take advantage of that.
This mystery drama blends together romance and a court drama that seeks to get to the bottom of a death. However, they both commit the sins of their clichés to marvelous degrees. The love dynamic is cheesy and unbelievable, while the court drama plays according to the formula with gasps at every revelation included. Where the Crawdads Sing has two concurrent stories playing out at once, but neither of them is particularly engaging.
Where the Crawdads Sing plays in theaters starting on July 15.
How to get help: In the U.S., call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or text START to 88788.