"A swamp knows all about death, and doesn't necessarily define it as tragedy."
Where the Crawdads Sing opens with a death. October 30th, 1969. Young Chase Andrews, popular and driven, mysteriously falls from the fire tower of a small town along the marsh in North Carolina. Catherine "Kya" Clarke, forever deemed "The Marsh Girl" by the city she's lived in her whole life, is charged with his murder. Unfairly treated as an outsider, Kya tells her side of the story to her lawyer from the confines of a jail cell. Did she kill Chase, and for what reason?
Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, Where the Crawdads Sing is a Southern-baked thriller that spans almost two decades of injustice and hate. Left to survive on her own by family members, from her siblings to both parents, Kya is forced to grow up fast from a young age. Navigating the murky waters of the marsh where her house sits, she is uneducated and teased by the kids in her community. Kya's only saving grace comes from two shop owners who agree to trade mussels she finds with necessities to survive and a neighbor boy named Tate. Tate helps Kya learn to read and write in their teen years and falls hard for him until he leaves her to go to college, devastating the young girl.
Fending for herself has always been a way of life for Kya. She distrusts others and evades Social Services looking to put her in a group home. For living in poverty, she keeps a clean appearance and home, focusing on her life on the marsh and painting pictures of the shells she collects along the way. She has an affinity for feathers. She resists any temptation from others to take her away from her home or the marsh.
Unfortunately, this is where Chase Andrews comes into the picture. Suave and confident, Kya first strikes up a romance with the young quarterback but attempts to keep him at a distance. Over time, Chase makes promises he can't control, eventually leading to an abusive relationship she can't seem to escape. When Chase turns up dead, the entire town looks to The Marsh Girl to set the record straight.
The all-female team of director Olivia Newman, screenwriter Lucy Alibar, and producer Reese Witherspoon do a tremendous job of painting a seductive small-town feel to a mystery thriller that should be anything but that. The marsh becomes a character within the woven story of greed, suspicion, and hatred. Daisy Edgar-Jones does a fantastic job of making you believe she can survive on her own despite the elements stacked against her. The film's climax is earned as it isn't apparent what the outcome of Kya's verdict would be at the trial, nor is it clear how Chase met his untimely death.
However, the film relies heavily on Kya's narration, explaining too many details rather than showing them, which is the advantage of a movie compared to a novel. The courtroom scenes lacked suspense, and it's hard to believe that many of Kya's allies (Tate, the shop owners) wouldn't have spoken up in her defense nor appeared in court for most of the trial. Some characters define difficult moments in the film but are never seen or heard from again, making their appearances seem unnecessary to move the story along. The ending does an excellent job of tying the entire premise together, although it is sped up partially with some plot holes. Yet, Where the Crawdads Sing amounts to an intriguing story nonetheless.
Only in theaters on July 15th!
Ticket rating: 🎟🎟🎟1/2