Based on the hugely popular novel by Delia Owens, Where The Crawdads Sing is a film that was always going to struggle to satisfy everyone. The key reason being that the book is different things to different people. For some it is a murder mystery, for others an aching romance, for some it’s a story about isolation and for others a musing on nature and how it echoes the human experience. But does it succeed in bringing such a beloved book to life on screen?
Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is a young woman living in the marshlands of Louisiana. Arrested for the apparent murder of her former lover Chase (Harris Dickinson), we flashback to Kya’s life before the trial and the build-up to it. From the moment her family abandoned her to her befriending local shop merchants Jumpin (Sterling Macer Jr.) and Mabel (Michael Hyatt), Kya has always lived life on the outside. Happiest exploring the wonders of the marshes she forms a romance with Tate (Taylor John Smith) and then Chase before her world starts to fall apart under the burden of local discrimination.
For fans of Owens’ novel, Where The Crawdads Sing is a very loyal adaptation. It hits all the right plot-points and emotions and feels very much in reverence to the book. The fact it proudly states in the opening credits that Taylor Swift wrote and composed a song exclusively for the film shows you the kind of audience Crawdads is aiming for. And as such it is hard to argue this film is anything less than a success.
It is a film firmly focused on the romance and heart of the book. As such it often feels a little bit like a Nicholas Sparks adaptation. The colour palette is all sun-kissed and Instagram filter beautiful without feeling tangible. Which is frustrating as the production clearly utilised some stunning locations but felt the need to add in slightly cheap looking green-screen shots and questionable CGI. But then, if you’re aiming for sweeping romance this is likely what is wanted.
So while it succeeds in what it wants to do it will leave some audience members longing for more. All too often it feels like an opportunity missed. In trying to focus on everything the book has to offer it loses out on addressing some of the more powerful ideas. Kya’s character in the book isn’t just lonely, she actively seeks being isolated. It takes the fondness of Jumpin, here sadly relegated to little more than a side-character, and Tate to draw her out of her shell. What was really needed here was a lighter touch, a more languid, Terrence Malick like focus on the small details rather than the grand sweeping rigmarole of the plot.
The cast all perform their roles with the gravity needed, Smith and Dickinson offer a nice yin and yang to Kya’s affections and David Strathirn brings his typically charming heart to his scenes as Kye’s lawyer. Edgar Jones continues to be most at home playing the outsider and while she carries the film well the script never demands too much of her. Had it delved into darker territories you wonder if this could have been an awards contender for all involved.
A passable romantic drama that never dares to be anything more, Where The Crawdads Sing will appeal to those looking for light escapism but never grip in the way it wants.
Where The Crawdads Sing is available to Download & Keep on October 5 and to Rent on Digital, Blu-ray™ and DVD on October 24 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.