Where The Crawdads Sing Movie Review

A shelf filled with copies of Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

Photo courtesy of Brittany Newman/New York Times.

A shelf filled with copies of Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

Where The Crawdads Sing is based on Delia Owens’ coming-of-age murder mystery novel that was released in August 14, 2018. Since then, more than 15 million copies have been sold,  the book is still #1 on the New York Times Best Sellers list, and a top pick for Reese’s Book Club. Delia Owens’ novel blew the world away, so much that it inspired Reese Witherspoon to bring the book to life and help produce the film, which was released July 13. Taylor Swift also contributed to the film by writing her latest song, “Carolina”. 

Where The Crawdads Sing takes place in 1960s North Carolina, where the main character, Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones), is abandoned by her family and lives alone in a marsh off to the side of Barkley Cove, which is the nicer way of living compared to what Kya has had to grow up with. Kya is framed for the murder of Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson), the golden boy of Barkely Cove. Except for a handful of people in town who know her well, the whole town accuses Kya of the murder, portraying her as “The Marsh Girl” and something wild enough to be capable of murder.

While the book is known to be a successful piece of literature, the film fails to hold itself to a similar standard as the novel. It’s typical for the books to be better than the movies because the films can’t fit in as much detail as the book can. However, the director, Olivia Newman, missed a couple of important factors from the novel that should have been implemented in the film. 

The first and most obvious error in the film was the setting. The film shows the marsh as an environment that is suitable and beautiful enough to live in and as a place where it is almost easy for Kya to survive in. While nature plays a huge role in the story, its purpose is not to always be aesthetically pleasing. The marsh is Kya’s home and the place where we see her first encounter with Tate Walker. 

However, it is also the place where Kya and her family were mercilessly abused by her father, where she was abandoned by her entire family as a child, and where Chase Andrews’ corpse is found. Instead of portraying the marsh as a place that is wild in its own beautiful and mysterious way, Newman seems to make every effort in showing how perfectly arranged and pristine the wildlife is, portraying rural poverty as an aesthetic living situation.

Another factor Newman forgot to touch on was racism in 1960s North Carolina. There are only two African American characters that stand out in the story, Jumpin’ (Sterling Macer, Jr.) and his wife Mabel (Michael Hyatt). Owens does a wonderful job at implementing the racism Jumpin’ faces as a Black man in 1960s North Carolina, where she writes about a time when young Kya defended Jumpin’ from two boys who were harassing him on his way home. 

In the film, Newman doesn’t add this scene to represent how common racism was in this time period. Even if she couldn’t implement the scene due to the limited amount of time she had, she could have added in a small scene that indicated racism was a common issue in the 1960s, like Chase Andrews saying something belittling to Jumpin’ for his race. 

It’s also important that evidence of racism should have been portrayed in the film because the feelings of being an outsider are something Jumpin’ and Kya share. Their situations are not exactly the same, but both characters know what it’s like to be treated differently.

The only good things that can come out of this film review is that it was refreshing to see a cast that is unique compared to the typical motive of choosing A-list actors who always get to participate in the majority of films produced, and the most of the people operating behind the cameras and bringing this film to life were women.