Where the Crawdads Sing is part nature documentary, part survival story, part coming of age romance, part murder mystery. The 2018 novel by conservationist Delia Owens became one of the best selling books in recent memory. I’m not a big reader, but the movie trailer peaked my curiosity when I learned Where the Crawdads Sing sold over 12 million copies. I decided to read the book in time to see the movie in theaters. I kept stopping and starting and the mostly negative movie reviews weren’t helping. Eventually I finished the book and saw the movie despite what the critics said. I’m glad I ignored them, because Where the Crawdads Sing is a genuinely great adaptation of an already engrossing book. I enjoy young adult stories and I didn’t care that it was technically a “Chick Flick.”
Almost the entire production team is female including the director, writer, and producers. There’s even a haunting original song by Taylor Swift. The book immerses the reader in the North Carolina marsh, but the movie is breathtaking with gorgeous cinematography that makes me appreciate swampland a lot more. Catherine “Kya” Clark is known to Barkley Cove as “The Marsh Girl.” Kya is abandoned by her entire family and forced to live with her abusive pa until he leaves her to fend for herself. She attends school once, but the townspeople reject her. The good thing about casting lesser known actors is that they fit the characters a lot better. The young Kya actress is good, but Daisy Edgar-Jones is exactly how I imagined teenage Kya. Her fascination with the marsh is infectious and so are the relationships she does manage to form.
Though it takes place in the 50’s and 60’s, the African American Jumpin and Mabel are the closest thing Kya has to caring parents. Her brother Jodie returns later on, but the focus is primarily on Kya’s romance between two very different guys. Taylor John Smith plays the protective aspiring conservationist Tate Walker who teaches Kya to read. Their relationship is magical, but it doesn’t last. Harris Dickinson plays the seemingly caring Chase Andrews who feels like a jerk whether you’ve read the book or not. The murder victim is Chase, and the movie gets to his trial a lot faster than the book. A wise decision that gives Kya a reason to tell her story when she’s accused. David Strathairn is probably the biggest actor who plays Kya’s comforting lawyer. Though the movie omits key characters and important poetry, the ending is still equally tearful and chilling. Way out yonder, Where the Crawdads Sing is better than it’s given credit for.