WHEN much loved local quarterback Chase Andrews is found dead at the base of a fire tower, the police presume murder, and there’s only one suspect in their eyes.
Olivia Newman’s adaptation of Delia Owen’s multi-million best-selling novel, Where The Crawdads Sing tries to play with our tendency to judge people based on preconceived notions, and for the most part succeeds.
Kya Clark – known locally as ‘marsh girl’ – has had an awful upbringing. Abandoned by her mother and siblings, who flee from under the nose of her alcoholic, abusive father, Kya is left to fend for herself. She picks mussels and sells them to feed herself, learning to live off the land and building an encyclopaedic knowledge of the surrounding area – a vast marshland.
Kya is made an outcast by those in her hometown – a tag she tries her best not to care about – and it’s on those terms that she is judged against Chase’s murder.
The film jumps back and forth between the murder case and Kya’s life leading up to the fateful day, stories merging at the end to dramatic effect. However, much of the film along the way lacks the substance to really bring the whole thing to life.
'Pulls too many punches'
Streamlined from the source material, Newman takes a step away from the detailed descriptions of nature and soul-searching to instead focus on the more page-turning aspects of the book. As a result, it lacks the depth needed to go from a good film to a great one.
Daisy Edgar-Jones is, as always, excellent in the lead role but finds herself let down by the two main male characters in the film’s most crucial moments, where otherwise fine performances become a little more like caricatures. Scenes that should carry high-tension find themselves just falling short of that edge-of-your-seat feeling.
There are multiple issues with the film – the pacing and ending come to mind – but it is ultimately an interesting story which has you invested throughout. It echoes back to courtroom dramas of the 20th century which relied on big speeches and clever twists to keep you engaged.
The parallels between this story and that of the book’s author Delia Owens are hard to ignore. Owens is wanted for questioning in relation to the suspected shooting of a poacher in Zambia in the late 90s, which was filmed by an American documentary team, but the victim was never identified. It’s a factor which makes the murder-mystery side of the film all the more intriguing – and adds a strange feeling to the outcome of the story.
Unlike Owens, Kya Clark’s story does have an ending – and a surprising one at that. The twist in the tale should be the film’s defining moment, but comes almost as an afterthought to the main story.
Where The Crawdads Sing is ultimately an enjoyable film. It’s built on one of the most popular books of all time and proves to be an adept adaptation, but pulls too many punches to be considered great in its own right.
VERDICT: BOOK LOVERS WILL ENJOY