Where The Crawdads Sing review | A painfully dull book adaptation

★★☆☆☆ Daisy Edgar-Jones plays her usual type in Olivia Newman’s adaptation of Delia Owens’ best-selling 2018 novel.

Where the crawdads sing daisy edgar-jones


Daisy Edgar-Jones plays her usual type in Olivia Newman’s adaptation of Delia Owens’ best-selling 2018 novel.

Kya Clarke (Daisy Edgar-Jones) lives all alone in the marshes of North Carolina after her entire family, one by one, leaves. Illiterate, but fiercely clever, Kya learns to survive and the friendly boy-next-door, Tate, eventually teaches her to read and write before he runs off to college, becoming yet another person to abandon Kya. 

Kya enters a relationship with Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson), who is later found dead at the bottom of a watchtower. Kya immediately becomes the number one subject, thanks to the townspeople perceiving her as a freak, naming her “ the Marsh Girl.” Kya swears innocence to her lawyer (David Strathairn) who combats evidence as well as prejudice to free Kya.

On paper, Where The Crawdads Sing sounds promising, intriguing and interesting. There’s plenty to explore and unpack, a narrative full of potentially meaty subtext, so it’s a real shame that Olivia Newman’s film version is so painfully dull and at times, downright bad. 

where the crawdads sing Tate

This is to no fault of Edgar-Jones who does her best with the weak material. Her Kya is impossibly polished for someone living out in the marshes on her own, there isn’t a sense of ferality to her. It’s established that she’s deeply intelligent and emotional, but where’s the fight that kept her alive and made her adapt and bloom in a rather hostile environment? 

Kya also seems to somehow only exist in relation to the other people in her life. We mostly experience her through her experiences with her Pa (Garret Dillahunt, appropriately haunted but underused), Tate or Chase. And there’s of course the kindly Black couple, Mabel and Jumpin’ who only exist to worry about her. 

Harris Dickinson, whose performance in Cannes-winner Triangle of Sadness was lauded earlier this year, mistakes detachment for depth. His character Chase is about as toxic as they come, but Dickinson isn’t able to make him sexy or seductive enough for us to believe that Kya would fall for him so hard. 

Even with such bad characterisation and problematic plotting, Where The Crawdads Sing’s worst sin is just how boring it is. The narrative is both hurried and lagging, with events that whizz by too fast but there are also long stretches in the middle of the film where nothing particularly meaningful happens. 

Where the crawdads sing david strathairn

Where The Crawdads Sing wants to be a coming-of-age film, a court-room drama and a murder mystery but director Olivia Newman’s inability to choose between those, or balance all of them, proves frustrating. None of this is helped by the less-than-great use of green screen and some dreadful CGI, both of which could perhaps be forgiven if the film was otherwise visually exciting. 

Alas, it’s not. Where The Crawdads Sing is the equivalent of undercooked white toast when it comes to its visual look; bland and disappointing. The film has the distinct feel that this would have made a genuinely enthralling TV limited series, which would have allowed for deeper examinations of Kya’s character and her place in society.

As it stands, Where The Crawdads Sing is a major disappointment, despite all the talent involved in the making of the film. 

Where The Crawdads Sing is in UK cinemas Friday July 22

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