Monday, July 25, 2022

Movie Monday: Where the Crawdads Sing

I had the honor of reading Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens before the book was released, writing a review, and also interviewing the author for Shelf Awareness (both interview and review at the link). I fell in love with the main character, Kya, and the gorgeous natural setting in the North Carolina marshes, so I was excited to see the story brought to life on the big screen. On my birthday Saturday, my husband and I treated ourselves to a morning matinee (no crowds!), our first time back in the theater in over a year. And, this wonderful adaptation did not disappoint.

As the movie opens, a young man named Chase, played by Harris Dickinson, has been found dead at the bottom of a metal observation tower in the North Carolina coastal marshes. The local police's investigation points to murder, and they quickly zero in on one suspect, a local woman named Kya (played by Daisy Edgar-Jones), who they immediately arrest. Kya lives a solitary life out in the marshes by herself. She is generally shunned by the townspeople, who call her "marsh girl," and treated badly, so when arrested, Kya doesn't speak to the police or try to defend herself. A retired lawyer in town, played by David Straithairn, is sympathetic to Kya and offers his help. Kya finally opens up to him and begins to tell him her story. When Kya was six years old, her mother abruptly left Kya and her siblings with their abusive father, having been beaten for the last time. As soon as they are old enough, her older siblings leave the homestead in the marsh, until Kya is left alone with her alcoholic father. Finally, he takes off, too, leaving Kya alone at just ten years old. She does her best to survive on her own, living off the land and earning some money by digging up mussels to sell to the local general store/bait shop, owned by Jumpin', played by Sterling Macer, Jr., and his wife, Mabel, played by Michael Hyatt, who are the only people in town who treat Kya kindly and recognize the peril of her situation. Kya makes a friend in Tate, played by Taylor John Smith, a boy who was friends with her brother and who also lives in the marshes. Eventually, as a young woman, she meets Chase. The action moves back and forth between flashbacks to Kya's early life and the present-day court case where she's being tried for murder. 

Like the novel, this movie is a murder mystery, courtroom drama, family drama, coming-of-age story, and love story, all set against the beautiful backdrop of coastal North Carolina. Nature plays a huge role in the overall story and especially in Kya's life, as for a long time, her only companions are the birds, insects, and other critters who live in the marshes and swamps. She collects all kinds of specimens, from shells to feathers and is quite talented at drawing everything she sees around her (her mother was a painter). Kya's coming-of-age story is beautiful and innocent, especially when contrasted with her present-day trial for murder. There is plenty of suspense right from the opening scenes about how Chase died and whether Kya did kill him, as the trial continues. 

We thought the casting was excellent, including not only Edgar-Jones but all supporting roles, too. I was glad we were able to see this movie on the big screen (recliner theater!), as the cinematography of the natural setting is absolutely stunning, with gorgeous views of the coastal marshes. The film also recreates a typical southern small town in the 1950's in a convincing way, though there's been some criticism that the Jumpin' and Mabel characters are racially stereotyped (the "kindly Black folk"). To my mind, they could relate to the way that Kya was being ostracized, in a way that the white residents didn't. I thought the movie stayed pretty close to the story in the book, though I read the novel back in 2018 (I think that's the best way to watch an adaptation, after a little time has passed). My husband has never read the book, but we both enjoyed the movie very much.

[Please note that I am well aware of the controversy now surrounding Owens, but since she herself was not under suspicion and the accusations against her family were never resolved, I chose to watch and enjoy the film on its own merits.]

Where the Crawdads Sing is currently showing in theaters and was released on July 15. The movie will eventually come to Netflix but not for about five months.

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