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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING 9/10 Big screen bestseller


Directed by Olivia Newman

Starring Daisy Edgar-Jones, David Strathairn, Sterling Macer Jr., Michael Hyatt, and Taylor John Smith

9/10

Based on the smash hit novel by Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing is the story of Kya, a young girl in the marshlands near a small town, who learns to survive on her own. Abandoned time and time again, Kya endures through a series of circumstances that would have broken anyone else.

The film switches between a courtroom trial in 1969 for the murder of beloved man-of-town Chase, and the accused marsh girl Kya recounting her story of resilience. From the first moments Kya pulls you into her habitat, until you are waiting with bated breath for the jury to give the verdict.

Like all book-to-screen conversions, you can’t capture every thought the author gave us on the page, however fans of the book will be content with the film. It holds true to the novel’s plot, matches the tone well, and even opens with the same prologue “Marsh is not swamp. Marsh is a space of light…A swamp knows all about death, and doesn’t necessarily define it as tragedy.”

Narrator and protagonist Kya is performed by a doe-eyed Daisy Edgar-Jones in a beautiful and measured portrayal encapsulating Kya’s innocence and inner strength. Kya is an immense role, carrying the film with substantial character development over an extended period of time. Edgar-Jones’ movements, gestures and tone match well with Kya’s personal development and maturity.

David Strathairn is excellent as Kya’s lawyer Mr Milton, reminiscent of Gregory Peck crossed with Sam Waterston. The supporting cast are all strong performances, including Jumpin’ (Sterling Macer Jr.), Mabel (Michael Hyatt), and Tate (Taylor John Smith), all of whom show kindness to a young Kya (Jojo Regina) rejected by the townsfolk.

The film emphasises the importance of gestures of kindness, which become anchor points in her neglected life. Set in the ‘50s and ‘60s, the blatant racism, sexism, and childhood neglect hurts to watch. We must also recognise that this film (and the book) holds little flame to reality, and that in all honesty Kya would have quickly succumbed to starvation. It is a romance, a fairytale, a Cinderella of the marshes, made for those of us for whom life has provided so easily and abundantly.

Where the Crawdads Sing is also a celebration of nature’s beauty and endless change. The cinematography is stunning, with soaring herons and sweeping shots of coastal Louisiana. Crawdads is a study of the deep south, of hanging moss, mussels, and seabirds. The marsh shelters her, protects her, provides for her, and eventually saves her too.

MELISSA MANN

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