Director: Olivia Newman | 2h 5mins | Drama, Thriller
Kya, a young woman who raised herself in the marshes of the Deep South, becomes entangled in the murder investigation of a man she was once involved with.
Adapting a beloved novel has always been a difficult task. At their best adaptations honour their source material and create a cinematic interpretation that allows fans to visualise their favourite literary characters, but at their worst they struggle to find the true personality of the story they are telling. Olivia Newman’s Where the Crawdads Sing unfortunately falls into the latter category, opting for shallow storytelling and sloppy sentiment instead of grasping to what made Delia Owens’ hit novel so great.
The film is set in the marshes of North Carolina, a place thriving with nature that bursts with life while also adding a survivalist touch with its common dangers. The film, instead of making it’s swampy setting an integral part of it’s characters resourcefulness, opts for using it as a shiny backdrop in which to role play cheap romance and murder mystery. It all feels surface level as Kya develops as a character – leaving the film feeling hollow from beginning to end.
At the centre of the story is the murder investigation of a young man who lives in the town by the marshes. Fingers point to Kya, or “The Marsh Girl”, because of her secret connection to the victim. It seems to lose its way as it becomes overly enamoured with selling itself as a mystery more so than a coming of age film, getting lost between the two instead of them harmonising delicately.
At the heart of it all is the performance by Daisy Edgar-Jones, who’s portrayal of Kya really is the film’s saviour. In early scenes of Kya’s timidness Edgar-Jones is able to say so much without every uttering a word, and as the character becomes stronger and more resourceful she is able to adapt with ease. Although the film feels overly produced and at times shallow, Daisy Edgar-Jones is able to find an honesty in the central performance that may just keep you engaged.
Accompanying the flavourless story is rather conventional direction and cinematography. While you may find beauty in the scenic shots of beaches and wildlife there is nothing particularly special about the filmmaking. It doesn’t do anything wrong, but with the overwhelming amount of content and talent out there, it’s a shame the film wants to play it safe so often as it does.
Daisy Edgar-Jones shines in her performance, but as an adaptation this film really is a disappointment. Even as a singular film it becomes swamped by its cheap thrills and paper thin sentiment, unable to capture any personality or tone in its marshy backdrop.