Where the Crawdads Sing is based on the best-selling novel by Delia Owens, which I didn’t read, so I’m not offering a movie/book comparison.
The film takes place in the salt marsh coastal area of North Carolina. With sweeping views and sounds of nature, a discovery of a dead body sets a darker tone. Daisy Edgar-Jones plays Kya, a reclusive girl locals refer to as “The Marsh Girl,” since she lives alone out near the swamp. The townspeople are quick to point fingers at The Marsh Girl. Kya becomes the murder suspect in Chase’s (Harris Dickinson) death.
A lot of the storyline develops through flashbacks to when Kya is a young girl. Through the eyes of young Kya, with a stunning performance by Jojo Regina, we witness the abuse of her father. Then her mother and siblings leaving at various points to escape. I mean, who leaves and doesn’t take the youngest with them? That is sad.
Eventually even Kya’s father leaves her behind. She survives with support from a local couple that buys the mussels she harvests daily. Alone and curious, she discovers and documents the wildlife of the marsh in beautiful sketches and paintings. Collecting feathers from local birds, she gets noticed by Tate (Taylor John Smith), who teaches her how to read and write and – boom- the two fall in love.
We go back and forth between the murder trial (albeit in brief, unsteady scenes), and Kya’s formative years with Tate and later with Chase (Harris Dickinson). The two boys painting the picture of dichotomy between hope and fear, being left and being found. Meanwhile Kya’s personal art grows, with the promise of maybe being published one day. Also -how is this girl meeting guys out in the middle of nowhere?
Beyond the awkward storytelling, Edgar-Jones is great as Kya, with curious and thoughtful eyes that invite you in. The overall setting is dark and dreamy. The beautiful scenery of the marsh lands and creatures that inhabit it encourage survival and growth. I love how her art brings that nature inside her home, that is already inside nature. You can hear it, feel it, and hide with her where the crawdads sing. Hat tip to cinematographer Polly Morgan for capturing such a beautiful space. And keep an eye on that Jojo Regina, she’ll be around again.