Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing ★★


Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing is a murder mystery drama concerning a young reclusive marsh woman who is being accused of the murder of a young man. It’s about half part a court room drama and half part a mystery romance. To be frank, Lucy Alibar’s script and Olivia Newman’s direction fail to deliver enough on any of those three genres, while also being irritatingly structured and having a third act that truly ruins the already inconsistent narrative. 

In the courtroom, the plot is filled entirely by tired cliches (such as a crowd gasping at a statement). I could care less about the case as a result and it becomes so repetitive by the end. It also kills the pacing when it switches from interesting character moments to boring court room sequences. There’s even weird narration oddly mixed in to make the structure feel even more miscalculated. As well as this, the mystery side of the story is never interesting enough to warrant it being a mystery in the first place (as it’s also wildly predictable). And the romantic relationships between the lead (played well by a talented Daisy Edgar Jones in an unfortunately thin role) and her two lovers are also a bit too stereotypically characterized. Pretty much all of the characters can each be defined by a one note characteristic (the abusive boyfriend, the nice boyfriend, the friendly store owner, etc.) that never changes throughout. 

I did appreciate the prominent use of the female gaze here though (by DP Polly Morgan). It feels especially appropriate for a movie that I believe will have one of the largest female attendance rates of the year (anecdotally, at least 3/4 of my theater was older women). And I was enjoying the dialogue heavy moments during the first half of the film because the cast as a whole does a good job with what they’re given. But then that third act just falls apart.

Eventually, the person who killed the young man is revealed in a way that I genuinely laughed at (and you’re definitely not supposed to). I found myself laughing like this multiple times throughout. Is that really the best way to write the ending? If anything, I would have preferred it be left ambiguous rather than give an incredibly boring concrete answer. I also hated that this ending uses a massive time skip. It felt so rushed and forced. Whether this is in the book or not (I haven’t read it), this is weak writing.

I am disappointed by Where the Crawdads Sing and feel it could be edited down to a more engaging 90 minute romance drama (make it less focused on the uninteresting mystery). Although, at the same time, I’m also happy to see that this film (a non superhero, not tied to a franchise, mid budget drama) is getting a lot of attention. I really enjoy the good character moments and Daisy Edgar Jones always elevates everything she’s in. Please support movies like this so we can keep seeing them in theaters because mid budget court room dramas/ mystery romances are pretty rare these days. And if this does financially well, it might encourage more producers to jump in on the hype. 

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