Movie Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

Director: Olivia Newman
With : Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickinson
Operating time: 125 minutes

Oh no, a big screen adaptation of a little sweet best-selling novel – there are bound to be disturbing sentimental scenes and lots of dialogue on the nose, right? Well, yes, as it turns out. Yet despite all the foreseeable pitfalls Where the Crawdads sing falls into, an engaging the script and some admirable performances from its cast – especially rising star Daisy Edgar-Jones – mean it’s more than just your straight-to-Netflix heartthrob.

crawdads = crawfish follows lifelong recluse Kya (Edgar-Jones) – known to many simply as “the swamp girl” – through the various stages of her life, covering her abusive childhood, an adolescence defined by loneliness and her eventual trial for the murder of his filthy romantic interest, Chase (Harris Dickinson). On the way, we meet another, a little less dirty romantic interest, Tate (Taylor John Smith), and seeing our leader finally open up to others, despite being burned by those she trusts so many times.

Like the book, this is split into two separate stories – Kya’s childhood; Kya’s Trial – but, unlike the book, the film goes back and forth between the two, mixing up the narrative in an attempt to avoid losing the audience’s interest. And, for the most part, it works. Where an initially slow start leaves you relatively disinterested – wondering why you should care about that random person you just met – the decision to dive back into the battles of Kya’s story is inspired; with each flashback, each revelation, each new exploration of his character, your empathy and interest rises, raising the stakes with each passing moment. If it had been a simple thriller or a simple courtroom drama, it would undoubtedly have fallen flat.

If you’re looking for a relatively engaging – if slightly predictable – slash-thriller study, you can’t really go wrong with Where the Crawdads Sing.

While the other characters have little depth, mostly acting as plot drivers, there are still some standout performances to be found. Dickinson is suitably slimy as the misogynistic, encouraging alpha male type the viewer wants nothing less than Chase to disappear whenever he’s on screen. And Smith manages to create a believable and sympathetic image chemistry with Edgar-Jones, keeping you invested enough in their characters’ relationship for some romantic beats to land.

If you think this praise means crawdads = crawfish is a particularly memorable or commendable film, however, you are wrong. Lucy Alibar’s storyline is, at times, painfully simple, regularly feeling like a animated high school literary essay. And at over two hours in length, the film borders on self-indulgent in its storytelling, with its pacing requiring a bit of refinement to really pop.

That said, if you’re looking for a relatively engaging – albeit slightly predictable – thriller-slash-character study, you can’t really go wrong with this. Where the Crawdads sing. Led by maybe the last year’s star to Daisy Edgar-Jones, and with just enough tension to keep you hooked from start to finish, it’s definitely worth a trip to the movies for – if only to enjoy their air conditioning .

Did you know? The author of the book that inspired the film, Delia Owens, makes an appearance at Kya’s trial.

Where the Crawdads Sing is in theaters from Friday, July 22

About Herbert L. Leonard

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