Reed’s review published on Letterboxd:
Disclaimer: Everything I’m about to say comes from the perspective of someone who read and loved the book. And it’s not possible for me to evaluate an adaptation on its own, isolated from its source material.
With that being said, I think the fact that I read the book actually improved my enjoyment of the movie — which is the exact opposite of what usually happens — because I already had context for the plot and love for the characters, so the movie didn’t have to fill in those gaps for me. I’m assuming that’s where the movie falls short for others.
Kya is one of the most interesting, unique protagonists I’ve ever come across in a book, but this adaptation doesn’t do her justice. Her personality isn’t captured accurately. She’s much too bold and polished here, her pain diminished, her rough edges smoothed, her life romanticized. (And her clothes are way too nice.) Similarly, the movie does a poor job of capturing her plight and why the town is so prejudiced against her.
But, again, I had the book to fill in gaps, so I wasn’t really bothered. And, in general, the movie remains quite faithful to its source material. The filmmakers even included finer nuances/details from the book that supplement characterization and plot development. They also did a decent job of juggling the multiple timelines, considering how convoluted they get in the book. The book has better, more suspenseful structure by far, but the movie isn’t bad. I just wish the ending had been executed better. It felt underwhelming instead of haunting.
From a reader’s perspective, the best thing about this movie is getting to actually see the marsh scenery. Nature’s beauty — and Kya’s love for the land — is a central focus of the book, so that’s where the story had the strongest movie potential. I was enchanted enough by the marsh I created in my head while reading, but it’s even more striking on screen.
Side note: I cannot stop singing or thinking of “Carolina.” I always thought it was a good song, but I am now fully in love with it after reading the book. It’s literally perfect for this story, both beautiful and haunting. And I got to hear it in theaters!! Taylor never misses.