I had heard a lot of positive word of mouth from people I know about Where the Crawdads Sing. So I was surprised to see that the Rotten Tomatoes score was in 33%, which is really low. I had no idea what to think about this film heading in as I rented it on Vudu.
Where the Crawdads Sing is a murder mystery/romance film that was based on a novel by author Delia Owens. It tells the story of a young girl Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones) whose father was an abusive man, and it was so bad that he drove her mother and all her siblings away, leaving Kya alone to deal with him until he too leaves her.
As a seven year old living alone in the North Carolina marsh, Kya survived selling mussels at Barkley Cove local store. The people of the town began to refer to Kya as the “Marsh Girl.”
Kya met a boy Tate (Taylor John Smith) who helped teach her to read and with whim she fell in love. When he went off to college, he promised to return to her, but he did not.
Kya then met another young man named Chase (Harris Dickinson). Chase pursued Kya but, despite stringing her along, he was at a higher class level and was going to marry someone else. Still, Chase wanted to keep Kya on the side. Kya told Chase that everything was over and he needed to leave her alone, but Chase did not take this well, striking her.
When Chase is found dead in the marsh, Kya becomes the prime suspect.
There was a lot about this that was really good. I enjoyed the story, overall. There were several issues with it which I wonder is from the adaptation of the book. I did like the section in court when Kya was being defended by Tom Milton (David Strathairn). There was a ton of material building the relationship between Kya and Chase, as well as Kya and Tate. Some of this could have been trimmed down a touch.
The performances were solid, despite the cast being filled with mostly unfamiliar faces for me. Edgar-Jones had a real presence about her and carried herself like a star. You were easily supportive of Kya when you saw the horrible life that she had to endure to become what she did.
I wonder if the negative review backlash has to do with the critics expectations of the adaptation of the novel. I’ve seen films that are trounced by critics because it does not reach the level of a previous content. That was not going to be an issue for me because I had not read the original book so I had no pre-existing expectations of the film. For my opinion, the film was solid, if perhaps a little over long. There were excellent performances, especially from the lead actress and a beautifully shot film with a remarkable visual setting. It is not the best film I have seen, but I enjoyed watching it.