Director: Olivia Newman
Starring: Daisy Edgar Jones, Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickinson, Michael Hyatt, Sterling Macer Jr, Jojo Regina, Garret Dillahunt, Ahna O’Reilly, David Strathairn
Run Time: 125 mins
Where The Crawdads Sing is an adaptation of Delia Owen’s 2018 coming-of-age murder mystery Southern Gothic novel. Directed by Olivia Newman, the film follows Catherine ‘Kya’ Clark (Daisy Edgar-Jones), a troubled and abandoned girl who has raised herself in the marshland of North Carolina. She survives selling mussels at a local general store owned by an African-American couple, who are concerned for her welfare and she is also an accomplished naturalist. When the dead body of a local boy is found, Kya is suspected of murder.
Contrary to the generally negative reception the film has received, I was enamoured by Where The Crawdads Sing. While the murder mystery element hangs over the film, it’s more concerned with recounting Kya’s life and how she has arrived at the murder trial. The story is consistently compelling and the film’s not afraid to explore some dark and tragic sub-plots. It really makes the most of its swampy location, which feels like a character of its own, and the 125 minutes raced by. I’d have been happy for the film to be an hour longer as it was that interesting. The film’s beautifully shot by Polly Morgan and is supported with a thoughtful Mychael Danna score.
Daisy Edgar-Jones is tremendous in the lead role, a misunderstood yet ultimately kind and caring young woman. She fantastically embodies the notion of a creature who lives in a shell and both Jones and the script remarkably convey her isolation and general (yet wholly justified) mistrust of people. David Strathairn is another highlight as the kind lawyer who takes on her case and raises thoughtful questions to the jury and community of why an outcast shouldn’t be labelled. Taylor John Smith is great as the flawed Tate Walker who has romantic passions for Kya, and The King’s Man’s Harris Dickinson is suitably slimy as another love interest.
Where The Crawdads Sing is a haunting adaptation told with beautiful humanity and is one of the best films of the year. It effortlessly melds its murder mystery, romantic and thriller genre qualities into a coherent and affecting drama that is never cheesy. I can’t wait to see what projects Newman and Edgar-Jones pick next as they are clearly both talents to watch.