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where the crawdads sing

★★

starring: daisy edgar-jones, taylor john smith, harris dickinson, and david strathairn

 

REVIEWER: lyall carter

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.

Based on the best-selling novel, 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, rumours 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.

 

From its release a couple of years ago Where the Crawdads Sing has been a publishing phenomenon, everyone seemed to be and is still talking about it. So it was inevitable that the big screen adaptation would come with a star producer in Reece Witherspoon, an up and coming starlet in Daisy Edgar-Jones, and veteran character actor David Strathairn. All wrapped up with a Taylor Swift ballad. 

 

The intricate dynamics of the character of Kya the “Marsh Girl”, the mystery surrounding the death of one of her suitors, and the cultural landscape on which this tale is built upon sees Where the Crawdad Sings bursting at the seams with potential. Unfortunately the filmmakers appear to have wanted a film that would appeal to the widest possible audience and as a result the waters have become somewhat muddied.

 

And therein lies the problem with Where the Crawdads Sing. It proposes, winks at, and hints at depth but rarely delivers it. Even in solving the murder mystery which is at the very heart of the film stumbles in its building of tension and in its final delivery. Its conclusion just doesn’t shock as a film like Gone Girl does. 

 

There’s no doubt from her performances in Normal People, Fresh, and Under the Banner of Heaven that Daisy Edgar-Jones is a tremendous talent whose star is on the rise. Unfortunately the script just doesn’t give her the nuances that her character demands, leading to a somewhat flat performance. In his quiet demeanor David Strathairn commands the screen whenever he appears on it, reminding us once again why he’s regarded as one of the best actors around. 

 

Where the Crawdads Sing fails to build the tension around the mystery at the very center of the film. One for the diehard fans of the novel. 

★★