Where the Crawdads Sing: a movie review by Alex First

July 22, 2022 by Alex First
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A young woman whose life has been a series of letdowns faces the possibility of the death penalty after being charged with the first-degree murder of her former lover.

That is the premise of a dramatic page-turner in cinematic form, Where the Crawdads Sing.

Before I go any further, I should mention that crawdad is American slang for crayfish.

We’re in North Carolina in the late 1960s, although the timeframe for the events that unfold go back to 1953.

Kya Clark is the youngest of five children with an alcoholic, violent and abusive father.

After a particularly vicious assault, her mother leaves, never to be heard from again.

Then one by one, all other members of the family follow, leaving this little girl all alone, left to fend for herself … with no schooling behind her.

Somehow she manages showing a particular interest in the natural environment – the marshes – around her.

As she grows and matures, she forms a couple of relationships that end badly.

As people have inevitably failed her, Kya is only truly at home when in her own private space and allowed to construct intricate sketches of what she sees.

She has a particular love of feathers.

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I would place Where The Crawdads Sing in the same space as 2004’s The Notebook, both films that are dramatic and involve love and loss.

Further, they hold particular appeal to women.

I appreciated the characterisation of Kya, first as a girl by Jojo Regina and, for the lion’s share of the film, by Daisy Edgar-Jones.

Edgar-Jones exudes wariness and apprehension.

Taylor John Smith is charming as boyfriend Tate Walker and David Strathairn is a kindly father figure as counsel acting for Kya, each ideally suited to their role.

Harris Dickinson is disconcerting as Kya’s second partner, Chase Andrews.

The screenplay by Lucy Alibar, from a novel by Delia Owens, is alluring and engaging.

Using the courtroom drama as a vehicle to relate her life’s story may not be original, but it remains an effective device.

The intrigue builds and there is a surprise in store as the movie ends.

Polly Morgan’s evocative cinematography remains a feature throughout, so Where the Crawdads Sing – directed by Olivia Newman – has both beauty and pain.

Rated M, it scores a 7½ out of 10.  125 minutes

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