Saturday, September 3, 2022

Where the Crawdads Sing: Movie Review

Stunning visuals and compelling story.
Where the Crawdads Sing is an off-the-beaten track movie and not just because the lead character Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones) lives away from society but also because of the way it lingers on the gorgeous cinematography highlighting the beauty in the natural world, and because to understand Kya in the current moment requires knowing everything that has led her here. It’s a gorgeous combination of past and present, the collaboration of art and science all wrapped up in a murder mystery when society clashes with the unknown.   2022

Directed by: Olivia Newman

Screenplay by: Lucy Alibar
Based on the novel by Delia Owens

Starring: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith

There have been lots of movies with lead characters who live away from society, but none who show the level of respect that this film pays to Kya aka Catherine Danielle Clark aka Marsh Girl. When the movie opens, she’s a young woman on the run from the authorities who are arresting her for murder. The film flashes back almost two decades earlier when Kya is a six-year-old girl living with her family in the marshes of North Carolina. But her father is an abusive alcoholic asshole and one by one her mother and older siblings run away leaving Kya alone with her dad then eventually alone by herself. This is a girl who has been taught to fear society because they hate her because they don’t understand her, but she has taught herself how to live and survive in the wilderness on her own

Most of the movie takes place in the 1960s and there are only four people who show Kya any love and respect. Tate (Taylor John Smith) a boy the same age as Kya who witnessed the abuse at the hands of her father and wants to do whatever he can to help her; at first it’s just helping her navigate the marshes when she was a child but later he taught her how to read. And a Black husband and wife (Sterling Macer Jr. and Michael Hyatt) who own a gas dock and a general store and they helped her trade mussels in for fuel for her boat and other food and clothes she’s not able to get on her own. Also Tom (David Strathairn) a lawyer who offers to defend Kya in court. He doesn’t know her but has noticed people’s cruelty towards her whenever she has ventured into town.

While the film never specifically mentions race, it can be inferred that at least part of the reason that the townspeople hate Kya is because she got helped by Black people. This is a town in North Carolina that is filled with rich, racist white people, and they are going to form the jury of her peers as she’s put on trial for the murder of one of their own rich, racist white boys.

The story of the murder trial is intercut with flashbacks to Kya growing up, every significant moment as Kya lives on her own and becomes both more and less integrated with society. Despite the non-linearity, the pacing is perfect. No section drags too long before we’re taken to a different part of the story and different obstacles to overcome. In addition to the gorgeous cinematography, the editing is really well done as well (I really hope it can, but I’m sure it won’t, be able to garner some well-deserved Oscar nominations).

As mentioned, I really love the respect the film shows for Kya, and in connection with that is the optimism the film has. Even though Kya’s life is filled with abuse, and cruelty and rejection and obstacles of all kinds, Kya remains even keeled allowing the film to remain interesting rather than depressing. Where the Crawdads Sing is a gorgeous movie with an interesting story and a thoughtful approach to the main character while able to highlight art and science and all the haves vs have-nots (racism, money, possessions) clashes within society.

One of the Best of 2022