Sunday 3 March 2024

Movie Review: Where The Crawdads Sing (2022)

Genre: Mystery Drama Romance  
Director: Olivia Newman  
Starring: Daisy Edgar-Jones, David Strathairn, Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickinson  
Running Time: 125 minutes  

Synopsis: In North Carolina of 1969, Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson) is found dead in an expansive marsh area. Kya Clark (Daisy Edgar-Jones), a social recluse who has lived alone in the marsh since childhood, is arrested and charged with murder. Lawyer Tom Milton (David Strathairn) comes out of retirement to defend her, and as the trial proceeds, Kya's backstory is revealed. Her family was torn apart by an abusive father, she raised herself and became an expert in marsh ecosystems, then as a teenager, she experienced romances with Tate Walker (Taylor John Smith) and then Chase, before his death.

What Works Well: The adaptation of Delia Owens' bestselling book uses a mysterious death as a framing device to explore themes of abandonment, resilience, abuse, romance, and justice. The duality of outcasts as objects of derision and fascination resides within Kya, both Tate and Chase attracted to her unique attributes but for different reasons. Director Olivia Newman includes just the right amount of captivating natural scenery, and is comfortable with a traditional storytelling structure where the courtroom scenes and flashbacks work together to reveal Kya's often heartbreaking experiences.

What Does Not Work As Well: Some of the story's foundational blocks are wobbly. For a young unschooled woman confined to the marsh her entire life, Kya is often a picture of radiant health, good grooming, and refined behaviour. The murder charge against her is built on the flimsiest of evidence, and given the relatively long duration, the final act speed races through numerous events but stubbornly refuses to show the pivotal moment in Kya's life.

Conclusion: Elegant and picturesque, but spongy when convenient.

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