Where the Crawdads Sing (2022)
Where the Crawdads Sing (2022)

Genre: Romantic Drama and Mystery Running Time: 2 hrs. 5 min.

Release Date: July 15th, 2022 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Olivia Newman Actors: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickinson, David Strathairn, Michael Hyatt, Sterling Macer Jr., Bill Kelly, Ahna O’Reilly, Garret Dillahunt

 


 

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wo young boys find the body of Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson) in the marshes of Barkley Cove, North Carolina, on October 30th, 1969. There are no fingerprints, footprints, or tracks anywhere nearby, though Chase’s jacket is covered in red fibers from an unknown article of clothing. Although the fire tower from which he suffered a 63-foot drop was previously reported as unsafe and in a state of disrepair, the authorities immediately assume foul play.

“That’s none of my business anymore,” asserts retired lawyer Tom Milton (David Strathairn), though he’s quick to offer up his services as counsel to Catherine “Kya” Clark (Daisy Edgar-Jones), a reclusive woman known as the “marsh girl,” whose ties to Chase make her the prime suspect in the case. Is she a witch? The town is soon caught up in a “riptide of gossip,” certain that Kya was involved, as her years of ostracization must surely have produced an unsociable wretch. And this first-degree murder charge carries a possibility of the death penalty.

Although Kya starts off uncooperative and silent, even to her defender, she eventually opens up via a flashback to 1953 – the first of many interruptions that serves as a harbinger for a terribly annoying narrative structure. As the film chronicles her upbringing by a violently abusive father and a traumatized mother, Kya’s book-like narration (full of poetic observations) reveals a somewhat commonplace, theatrically-retreaded, miserable childhood (touching upon the premise of “Nell” but with a much gentler edge). When her parents and siblings abandon her, she stays behind in a forested isolation, learning to survive without proper nutrition, shelter, education, friends, money, or opportunities. At least there are a couple of generous townsfolk who help her out from time to time. “Sometimes I feel so invisible.”

The trial pops up here and there, remaining unelaborated and aggravating, as Kya doesn’t communicate with Milton, stringing viewers along for a chance to guess at what actually happened. Before any pertinent details arise, “Where the Crawdads Sing” transitions into a teen love story, as Kya, though shy and socially neglected, just so happens to be attractive (“I think you’re gorgeous!”), catching the attentions of not one but two young men (Tate [Taylor John Smith] and then Chase). Had she suffered from the brutality and cruelty and destitution of her fosterage like in “Sling Blade” or “The Wild Child,” it would be a considerably different adolescence. Here, she’s blessed with the allure of not only her looks, but also the freedoms from supervision in the marsh, as well as a fairy-tale-like tranquility in her solitude. There are no calendars in her home, nor are there any real responsibilities; save for a random social worker poking about, Kya’s independence is unrealistically ideal – and the perfect environment for a teen romance.

The murder/mystery is tiresomely detached from any notion of suspense, particularly as audiences are kept in the dark when it comes to crucial evidence. Perhaps more irking than the lack of information, however, is the simplicity; it’s all too straightforward to be original. There’s nothing much to ponder or guess at. Plus, the pacing is too slow to be thrilling, while the love story is too generic to be moving. Most effective is the background considerations of her missing family members and the way the span of time has transformed their potential relationships, along with mild notes on prejudices of the era, which are overshadowed by Kya’s dubious treatment as an outcast, which is spoken of in a broad sense, never quite plausibly demonstrating how she would even be recognized as a target for ridicule when she suddenly appears in civilization all dressed up and done up. And the conclusion, hoping to present a stunning revelation or two, is so outrageously unconvincing (perhaps even more so than in “Just Cause” or “The Power of the Dog” or “Primal Fear”); it hardly matters that the denouement is so pointlessly overlong that it threatens to make viewers give up on ever learning the truth – or feel contented with such a storytelling void.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10