‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ hits high note
Some movies turn out to be not anything you were expecting — sometimes softer and more romantic or darker, more emotionally upsetting than you’d think. Where the Crawdads Sing achieves the feat of being a delicate balance of both.
This film is an adaptation of Delia Owens’ first novel, which has seen 12 million copies sold since it was published in 2018. Directed by Olivia Newman and produced by Academy-Award winning actress Reese Witherspoon, the story follows an abandoned but determined girl Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones) who raises herself to adulthood in a North Carolina marshland.
Kya lives in a shack with her poor family in 1953. Their alcoholic and abusive father gambles their money away and her mother and siblings flee one by one until she is left alone with her dad. At age seven, he abandons her. She survives by selling mussels at a store owned by a black couple who become her good friends. She becomes eventually known as the Marsh Girl.
She is taught by a slightly older friend, Tate, to read, write, count, and was lent books to read. They enter into a romantic relationship until Tate breaks it off when he is off to college. He also breaks his promise of coming back for her on the 4th of July.
In 1968, Kya gets romantically involved with a quarterback named Chase Andrews. He promises marriage and gives her a keepsake, a small shell she would eventually turn into a necklace. Tate returns after a year, wanting to rekindle the relationship, but she is ambivalent. She also breaks off the engagement with Chase following her discovery that he is engaged to another woman.
Kya rebuffs Chase’s persistent attention and fends off his rape attempt, threatening to kill him if he persists. The threat is heard by a local fisherman. Days later, Chase is found dead, and Kya gets charged with first-degree murder.
The police isn’t much interested in evidence. To them, she is a feral child, an uncivilized outsider, and now, a scapegoat.
The movie may remind viewers of a 1994 Michael Apted film, Nell, where Jodie Foster plays a feral child who’s also from North Carolina. However, Kya has much more refinement and sophistication.
While Edgar-Jones doesn’t have the accent or drawl mostly heard in residents of the state, she plays the role with vibrant sensuality and poise.
The film is a bouquet of moods; threatening, romantic, foreboding, hopeful, and maudlin, with decent performances from its stars making it worth watching.
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