‘Where the Crawdads Sing’
125 minutes | Rated PG-13
“Where the Crawdads Sing” is a new film based on a 2018 best-selling novel of the same name by Delia Owens. It is a murder mystery intertwined with a love story set in a North Carolina marsh in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
We begin in 1969, two young boys riding bicycles discover a body in the marsh. Police discover that it is the local quarterback Chase Andrews. It appears that he has fallen from a fire tower at the edge of the marsh, but there are no tracks or fingerprints left at the scene. A mysterious young woman who lives alone in the marsh is brought in as a suspect, after fibers found on the body match those found on a cap in her home. A local attorney, played by David Strathairn, who has always treated her kindly, offers to represent her.
We learn that she is Kya Clark, played by Daisy Edgar-Jones. The townspeople know little about her and call her “marsh girl.” We then flash back to her early days with her family in the cabin. Her father is abusive, and an alcoholic. One day after an argument, her mother leaves. Slowly, over the next few years, her older siblings leave as well, leaving her alone with her father.
Kya is a bright and resourceful young lady. She learns to keep quiet and avoid angry outbursts from her father. He softens a bit, but one day, he too leaves. Over the years, the local shopkeeper and his wife have taken a liking to the girl and help her out as best they can. With their encouragement, Kya attempts to go to school. As the kids all make fun of her, she only attends the one day.
One day after her father has left, she takes the boat out farther than she has gone before and becomes lost. She encounters a boy about her age named Tate. He guides her back home and the two slowly become friends. He teaches her to read and write, and how to count, as she teaches him about the flora and fauna of the marsh. It turns out that she is a talented artist and has been doing drawings of the wildlife and the swamp. Tate suggests that she should send these to a publisher to be made into a book and provides her with a list of addresses.
Things are going well until Tate, played by Taylor John Smith, leaves for college. He promises to return to watch the fireworks on the Fourth of July. Tate fails to keep his promise.
One day she is approached by Chase Andrews, played by Harris Dickinson. Chase is a popular boy in town. He has had a bit of a crush on Kya, and decides to pursue her. They begin a romantic relationship. Shortly after Chase proposes, Kya discovers that he is engaged to another, more “acceptable” girl. She is furious. A fight ensues and he attempts to rape her. She manages to fight him off threatening to kill him if he ever returns. This threat is overheard by a local fisherman. Did Kya murder Chase?
“Where the Crawdads Sing” starts off well, the acting is great, and the plot of figuring out what happened to the victim holds the interest of the audience. As the love story is revealed, the film slowly loses the interest of the audience and becomes much more predictable. That is not to say that the film is bad, it just loses focus a bit in the last half.
The scenery in the marsh is beautifully shot, and everything looks authentic for the time period. What begins as a tight well done murder mystery devolves into a typical formulaic love story. This is a good movie that could have been great if they had focused a bit more on the murder case in the later half of the movie.
“Where the Crawdads Sing” is rated PG-13 for some violence and sexual content. It should be fine for teens and up. I rate it three-and-a-half out of five scallop-shell necklaces.