Where the Crawdads Sing is based upon the controversial, best-selling novel of the same name. Starring Daisy Edgar-Jones, the film tells the story of Kya Clark, known to her local North Carolina town as the “Marsh Girl,” who is accused of the murder of her domineering ex-boyfriend, Chase (Harris Dickinson).
The book is likely a compelling story with interesting characters, but the film is overly sanitized and more like the Cliff’s Notes version of the story. Everybody is beautiful, and everything is beautifully shot, but the characters live in ugly circumstances. Kya might be the “Marsh Girl” to the people of Barkley Cove, but she’s the only Marsh Girl who seems to have her own skin care product line. By themselves, beautiful people and cinematography aren’t bad things, but in Where the Crawdads Sing, they distract from the story, which deals with real and ugly subjects like abuse and poverty.
Even the title Where the Crawdads Sing is a perfect representation of the film’s flaws. It is a series of words that sounds poetic but ultimately means nothing (not for nothing: crawdads are incapable of singing, which is acknowledged in the book but not the film). The film itself is a series of important themes, but the film has nothing to say about any of them. The poverty isn’t explored with any faithfulness to reality, and the film’s depiction of abuse fails to explore the complex psychology of abusive relationships, resulting in a simple, moralistic conclusion.
It’s entirely possible that Where the Crawdads Sing is an expansive and interesting novel, but this adaptation falls into all of the pitfalls that plague putting complex books into two-hour films.
Two out of five stars.