Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing ★★½

"No, I never hated them. They hated me."

Being a faithful adaptation doesn't automatically equal great filmmaking. The uneven yet rich and compellingly crafted material of Delia Owens's Where the Crawdads Sing has been transformed into a slog, mostly due to a poorly utilised non-linear structure and a lack of focus on some of its narrative elements. Whenever it's shot on location, it looks great and observes the beauty, harshness and complexity of nature as it should be doing, but the look is too clean and polished to craft an ethereal atmosphere and doesn't support the emotional depths of its source material.

Amidst the uneven melodrama and underdeveloped weight, Kya's story remains intact, never forgetting about her relentless trauma of being abused, isolated, abandoned by her family, ostracised by a hateful community, and used by one of her boyfriends, and how all these come together to destroy her innocence. Whenever she turns to the marshes, far away from the stigmas of society, she can breathe. She finds comfort in the shells she collects and references, her true passion there and her chances to heal. That mixture of pure tragedy and hope is conveyed painfully well by Daisy Edgar-Jones, whose performance brings out the nuance of her protagonist and makes Where the Crawdads Sing worth the price of admission for this reason alone.

Yet in spite of Lucy Alibar's screenplay trying to honour Owens's novel, it's too messy in execution and there's not a sufficient exploration of its murder mystery angle or its social commentary of prejudice and social and racial division. Olivia Newman's direction is fine, and that's also a major problem. It means there's not much of a haunting vision that comes to life in Where the Crawdads Sing, and makes it feel like a film that anyone could've directed. Wish I could say it's as equally good as the source material, but it's unfortunately another case of "the book is better than the film" syndrome.

You can also check out my quick review of the novel on Goodreads, and in that case, feel free to follow my account on there.

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