Where the Crawdads Sing

Though it may feel like it, Where the Crawdads Sing is not based on a true story. It is, however, based on the novel by Delia Owens from 2018. It is fairly faithful to the source material and does have the down-home Southern feel to it. Meaning the language and storytelling style is indicative of the region. Director Olivia Newman (directed episodes of FBI and Chicago Fire) has taken the screenplay by Lucy Alibar (Troop Zero, Beasts of the Southern Wild) and made a film that, while having a dark element or two to it, sheds light on strength of the human spirit.

Deep in the marshes of the South, a family lives a rather reclusive life. Ma (Ahna O’Reilly – The Help, Fruitvale Station) and Pa (Garrett Dillahunt – No Country for Old Men, 12 Years a Slave) have plenty of kids. But it is not exactly a happy existence as Pa drinks and gets violent. His abuse becomes too much for Ma so one day she leaves. As much as her youngest daughter holds out hope, Ma never returns. One by one all the kids escape Pa, leaving the marshes far behind. All that remains is the youngest, Kya (Jojo Regina – first feature film). she learns how to avoid Pa’s rage while taking care of herself.

Looking over her as she grows up is the African-American couple who owns the local general store, Jumpin’ (Sterling Macer Jr. – Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, Double Take) and Mabel (Michael Hyatt – Nightcrawler, Fame – 2009) buy the mussels she brings in so that Kya has a little money to live on as well as bringing her the donated clothing from their church. Kya has to grow up quickly, learning to rely on herself.

A rather isolated and lonely existence, as she gets a little older she begins to draw and catalogue all the species of birds, fish and fauna found in her part of the marsh. Her true talent shines through. As a teenager, Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones – from television’s War of the Worlds) catches the attention of local boy, Tate (Taylor John Smith – from television mini-series Sharp Objects). He begins to teach her, who never went to school, how to read and write in his spare time. The two fall in love, but their idyllic existence is shattered when Tate announces that he is going away to college. He promises to come back to visit during his break but never does. Once again Kya is on her own.

What brings Kya out of her isolation is another relationship. She is pursued by Chase (Harris Dickinson – The King’s Man, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil), a young man from a well-to-do family. They begin a relationship that, despite the fact that Chase keeps it secret from his family, is going well. That is until Tate returns and Chase is found dead. Kya is charged with his murder and it seems it will be up to Barkley Cove lawyer, Tom Milton (David Strathairn – Lincoln, L.A. Confidential), to defend her.

What begins as a coming-of-age/young love story turns into a murder mystery about halfway through. It is still a simple story yet intriguing. One that celebrates innocence not turning up its nose at the simple existence led by the lead character. There is a little bit of a Hallmark movie feel to it in parts but the heart cuts through that.

Though many on this side of the Atlantic are not familiar with her work, young British actress Daisy Edgar-Jones is a major reason for the film’s success. She brings the right amount of innocence and savvy to her character. Buying into the believability makes you invested in the entire tale.

Filmed in North Carolina, the visuals of the marsh and surrounding areas are stunning.

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