A Lack Of (Supporting) Character: Our Review of ‘Where The Crawdads Sing’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - July 14, 2022
A Lack Of (Supporting) Character: Our Review of ‘Where The Crawdads Sing’

It’s a difficult sensation to shake when you know something doesn’t quite work…

While Where The Crawdads Sing may have been a beloved bestselling novel it doesn’t translate effortlessly to the screen as a lack of nuance and cohesion bring down an otherwise strong leading performance.

Kya is an abandoned girl who raised herself to adulthood in the dangerous marshlands of North Carolina. For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, isolating the sharp and resilient Kya from her community. Drawn to two young men from town, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world; but when one of them is found dead, she is immediately cast by the community as the main suspect. As the case unfolds, the verdict as to what actually happened becomes increasingly unclear, threatening to reveal the many secrets that lay within the marsh.

Ignoring the recent revelations that some events in the book mirror something that actually happened to the author a number of years ago (you can read about that right here), there’s something in this film that is really lacking as Where The Crawdads Sing plays as uncomfortable mediation that lands somewhere between feminist revenge fantasy and genuine social commentary on how people can generally be horrible to one another.  It’s mournful but without any real stakes or danger as it all plays through the prism of the leading character.

To her credit, Daisy Edgar Jones does a pretty wonderful job of bringing the lead character Kya to life, imbuing the character with some genuine layers of world weary emotion, fear of the world that she doesn’t understand and desire to be appreciated for who she is.  Ignoring any cheap emotional flourishes; Jones allows Kya to have strength and independence but vulnerabilities at the same time which is an obvious factor into why this story is so beloved.

However with the lack of obvious descriptors that you can have with the written word on the page, a lot of it feels to fade in the wake of some very clunky writing from screenwriter from Lucy Alibar and direction from Olivia Newman who uses some very lush and beautiful photography to distract from a narrative that is taking some fairly broad strokes on occasion throughout the story.  It’s riding a pendulum between emotionally compelling and flat out sleepy until the very end of the story.  While there is some very obvious symbolism and implied deeper meaning throughout the narrative, you can’t help but feel like you are being treated to a degree of mild condescension from the storytellers and it ultimately gets a little grating.

The supporting players in this story (and the actors who subsequently play them) all feel like they’ve been lost in the shuffle somewhat as we are shoehorned into appreciating Kya’s arc and the challenges that she has overcome through the course of the film.  It’s just a little too one dimensional when trying to tell a story on the big screen and in this case it all only ‘kind of’ of works.  You feel the absence of anything resembling real human character in Kya’s universe.

At the end of it all; Where The Crawdads Sing lacks any genuine drama to it all as it leans on the tired (if sadly accurate) ideas that people (and men in particular) can be pretty shitty to one another throughout the course of human history.

In this world where Kya’s existence is good and everyone else is bad, we needed a little more nuance and understanding of the levels in-between that we all ultimately learn about as we get older and enter the world, where as the film we got was a coming of age story told with the subtlety of an “On/Off” switch.

  • Release Date: 7/15/2022
This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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