A woman who raised herself in the marshes of the deep South becomes a suspect in the murder of a man she was once involved with.
‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ is the latest movie to come into cinemas bolstered by its basis in a best-selling novel – the only surprise, having watched the movie now, is that the novel is by Delia Owens and not Nicholas Sparks. That is because this is a movie about a schmaltzy love triangle wrapped up in a hokey murder mystery, with ambitions to tell a story of greater depth than it manages to realise. It borrows traits from better movies but director Olivia Newman doesn’t manage to bring them together to make this movie satisfying in its own right – whether that is a reflection of the source material’s weakness or the adaptation I cannot comment.
The movie tells the story of Catherine ‘Kya’ Clark (Daisy Edgar-Jones) or the ‘Marsh Girl’ as she is more commonly known by the local townsfolk. She was abandoned by her family as a child and has spent her days living out in the North Carolina marshes, surviving purely by selling mussels. As she grows older she meets and builds relationships firstly with Tate (Taylor John Smith), a friend of her older brother (who seems to get a pass for abandoning his little sister), and then with Chase (Harris Dickinson), a stereotypical high school jock. When one of them turns up dead not too far from Kya’s cabin within the marshland, she becomes the number one suspect and finds herself on trial for murder, with the movie’s framing device using flashbacks during the trial to tell the true story of what really happened. This storytelling approach doesn’t do ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ any favours, with the constant moving between past and present losing what little momentum it manages to build up.
The first thing that struck me about the movie is how inauthentic everything felt, particularly the lack of grit one would expect from a small town murder mystery set amidst the swamps. Every character is too clean and too polished, looking like they’ve walked off a catwalk and not out of the marshes. In the lead, Daisy Edgar-Jones does her best and she is a good actress, but I didn’t really buy her in the role, with the only actor who fit in really being David Strathairn who is as good as always as Kya’s lawyer. It wants to be a film about small town prejudice and the empowerment of a marginalised female character, but these aspects seem like window dressing to a story that quickly turns into a cliched love triangle, with the surprises it thinks it is unfurling on the viewer quite easy to predict. You know where this is going from about 10 minutes in.
It’s been quite a lean period for movies over the course of this summer and unfortunately ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ has done nothing to elevate that position.
Directed By: Olivia Newman
Starring: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickinson, Michael Hyatt, David Strathairn, Garret Dillahunt, Ahna O’Reilly and Eric Ladin