‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ more romantic drama than mysteryJul 14, 2022 01:10PM ● By Jenniffer Wardell
In a lot of ways, “Where the Crawdads Sing” doesn’t even feel like a mystery.
Yes, there’s a big court case, but that feels more like the culmination of a tough, incredibly lonely coming-of-age story. There’s a ton of romantic drama, the struggle of trying to find love across two different worlds. All of that is wrapped up in such gorgeous shots of the Carolina marsh that it’s easy to understand why the main character would never want to leave.
Admittedly, the movie does kick off with a murder. Opening this weekend, “Where the Crawdads Sing” tells the story of Kya, a young woman who grew up by herself in the marsh. When an ex-boyfriend turns up dead, the town is quick to accuse the girl who’s been an outcast her whole life. Will the jury set her free, or will she die far away from her beloved marsh?
Though the court case serves as a framework, most of the story is about Kya’s life up to that point. Jojo Regina is heartbreaking as the young Kya, trying so hard to look brave even though she’s about to burst into tears. At the same time, she looks so natural out on the water that you understand why she doesn’t look for safer circumstances.
Daisy Edgar-Jones is just as excellent as the adult Kya. She’s both fragile and strong at the same time, subtly evoking the wildness of the marsh without turning into a caricature. She’s clearly not used to people, but Edgar-Jones makes it so the relationships she does have are all the more meaningful. The emotion on her face can be almost painful at times, but it gives the story that much more impact.
A lot of that emotion comes from the two romantic relationships portrayed in the movie. Both have more nuance than they do in the book, with small changes giving the men more depth. This doesn’t change the big events in the book – if you haven’t read it, I won’t spoil what they are – but it makes the story richer. Some of the credit also goes to Taylor John Smith, who can make his whole heart shine out of his eyes.
The movie also makes some small tweaks to the mystery. The changes shine a slightly stronger light on another potential killer, though for most of the movie it still doesn’t come across as being terribly mysterious. The ending remains the same, as does its impact.
That’s not the only thing carried over directly from the book. The opening narration is pulled directly from the first lines of the prologue, and other key lines make an appearance as well. When dialogue or narration is new, it matches the style of the original lines beautifully.
In the end, they all flow together into a story of a very unique woman.
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Utah Film Critics Association. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at [email protected]