Director: Olivia Newman
Cast: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickinson, Michael Hyatt
Runtime: 2 hrs 5 mins
Rating: NC16 (Sexual Scenes)
Released By: Sony Pictures
Opening Day: 22 September 2022
Synopsis: From the best-selling novel comes a captivating mystery. Where the Crawdads Sing tells the story of Kya, 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. Drawn to two young men from town, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world; but 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.
“Luring him was as easy, as flashing valentines.
But like a lady firefly, they hid a secret call to die.”
The gem of a summer movie, Where the Crawdads Sing, hits the big screens just in time before the autumn equinox and goes on to teach us the enigma of life where a prey too can be the predator when circumstances demand so. The Reese Witherspoon-produced movie magically unveils an opening scene of the marsh that features almost all elements of nature and cuts to the chase scene where the young woman, Catherine Clark (Daisy Edgar-Jones), chooses to take flight instead of fight as a natural response when the police hunts her down. And it whirlwinds into a court trial, without much further ado.
Based on the 2018 best-selling murder-mystery novel by Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing weaves a tale of a young woman who painfully constructs her own little bubble and forges a support system she never once had, till love finds her. Drawn to two young men, (Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickinson) in two different timelines who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya is obliged to tap into her primal instincts when the unthinkable happens.
With one having to look extra hard these days to avoid being wildly disappointed with movie adaptations of books, the cast members have rendered an amazing execution by staying absolutely faithful to the actual portrayal of the book characters. Although the movie pivots on Kya's resilient bloom-wherever-planted character, the beauty of this narrative is that no one single character carries the entire weight of the plot. Every character, from the sleepy town's grocers (Michael Hyatt, Sterling Macer Jr) to the benign-souled lawyer (David Strathairn), steers the plot in the right direction by establishing emotional intimacy. With Tate's and Chase's characters seated at the two ends of the leading male spectrum, it was clear who the plot was actually rooting for. One is chivalrous and almost like a soulmate (Tate) while the other comes in strong, aggressive and more like a false twin flame (Chase) that sells dreams to a vulnerable feminine (Kya).
The symbolisms planted in the movie definitely lends allure to this rural thriller. It would be a pity to overlook the corny but cute back and forth exchange of gift feathers and shells which are featured throughout the entire runtime, from Kya's childhood to her golden years - almost like a constant amidst the changes. Another prominent representation would be the scallop shell which is a rare entity on the marshlands gets washed ashore and it is Chase that sights it.
And (last one, I promise) how ironic that the one who treats her eyes to the refreshing panoramic view of the entire stretch of marshland, gets preyed upon...
The effortless transitions that shuttles the audience back and forth from the courtroom to Barkley Cove were really smooth and far from wearisome. The seams were so smooth and intertwined that it literally keeps one on the edge to learn about what happened at the fire tower that night.
As with other big screen adaptations of books, Where the Crawdads Sing wasn't spared of the divided opinions. Not many would have read the 300-plus-paged book that the screenplay was based on. But hearsay has it that some felt that the book was much darker than the film and that the narrative of Kya being Kya was downplayed. In the movie, they have painted her to be an innocuous being that likes to study nature on the whole. It seems that they have muted a side to Kya where she harbours a carnal attraction towards Chase and that she actually spends considerable amount of time studying mating habits of animals. Besides just that, there were rants about Kya being the first person narrator in the movie where actually the book is told from a third person omniscient point of view. It is a case of mixed bag of reviews once again. But how much parallels can actually be depicted in a 125-min romantic thriller drama? Do stay for the Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Taylor Swift’s audio treat, “Carolina” as the end credits comes on.
**A Little Spoiler Alert**
Don't look for closure when it comes to Chase Andrews. Be prepared to leave with a slightly heavy heart, as the unfolding of the murder never takes place. It is left as a mere point of reference that revisits the possibility that no one killed Chase Andrews. Although the audience are left deprived of the visual representation of the murder, it doesn't leave a gaping hole in the plot. Also, could it have been my bad to have waited with bated breath for the actual representation of the murder when the older Tate finally finds the hidden seashell? Maybe, as a sucker for closures. But maybe not, as someone who deserves a visual representation of the nucleus of the movie.
(A stunningly-shot, coming of age murder mystery that is incredibly promising of a delightful cinematic experience for those who have and have not devoured the pages of the best-selling source material)
Review by Asha Gizelle Mariadas