Storytelling school

Where the Crawdads Sing: A beloved book adaptation bogged down by confusing storytelling

Daisy Edgar-Jones plays Catherine

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Daisy Edgar-Jones plays Catherine “Kya” Danielle Clark from Where the Crawdads Sing.

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Where the Crawdads Sing (M, 126mins) Directed by Olivia Newman **½

Not since Gone Girl, Fifty Shades of Gray or The Girl on the Train has a film adaptation of a beloved book been so anticipated.

While Delia Owens’ mid-20th century North Carolina tale didn’t quite hit the sales numbers of those three literary giants, 12 million copies in about 40 months is a pretty impressive comeback and a potential fanbase.

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After previews in select theaters today (Wednesday, July 20), Where the Crawdads Sing opens nationwide tomorrow (July 21).

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Unfortunately, despite some seemingly smart choices in terms of screenwriter – Lucy Alibar is best known for co-writing the provocative and evocative Beasts of the Southern Wild (which has thematic echoes here with its coming of age story of a young woman and a connection to his natural surroundings) – and the lead actor (Normal People and Under the Banner of Heaven star Daisy Edgar-Jones is brilliant at portraying the mix of vulnerability and steely determination that the protagonist of Crawdads demands), it often seems lifeless and bland, lacking some of the novel’s nuance and emotional punch.

The dual narrative was always going to be a challenge, but it ends up feeling more than a little rushed (though the modern alternative of a seven- or eight-part limited series would probably be even less palatable or compelling).

It also conjures up memories of films from that bygone era of the late 1990s and early 2000s, a somewhat clumsy hybrid of John Grisham’s courtroom thriller and Nicholas Sparks’ romantic drama (a comparison not helped by the setting ). The latter is never really convincing – mostly because the two dudes in the love triangle misbehave – and the former is nonsensical because of the continued stupidity of the accusation.

IBD

The Normal People star is back with a new movie, Where the Crawdads Sing, but how did she manage to hit the nail on the head?

For those unfamiliar with the source material, Where the Crawdads Sing chronicles the life of Catherine “Kya” Danielle Clark (Edgar-Jones). Raised in the swamps of Barkley Cove by an abusive father, she was abandoned by her mother and four siblings, as each of them found their own courage to leave.

Even after her death, she was still reviled and shamed by most of the nearby townspeople, showing kindness only to the African-American couple who own the local store and fellow swamp rat Tate Walker (Taylor John Smith). , who taught him to read and encouraged his talent for both illustration and knowledge of local flora and fauna. But after their relationship turns romantic, his promise to stay in regular contact with her after she enters college is broken.

Hurt, Kya is ultimately seduced by the continued attentions of chiseled scion Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson), even though his love language sends her mixed signals — at best.

This backstory is framed entirely by Kya’s subsequent arrest and trial for her murder. Found at the bottom of a fire tower, authorities believe ‘the best quarterback the city has ever had’ fell 200 feet after being pushed by ‘the swamp girl’. Despite the absence of fingerprints, lack of traces and a seemingly solid alibi, they believe Kya had the “time, drive and weakness of character” required.

With a jury made up of her peers from a community that has always judged her, Kya’s only hope of avoiding the death penalty lies in the hands of retired attorney Tom Milton (David Straithairn).

While Daisy Edgar-Jones is brilliant at portraying the mix of vulnerability and dogged determination that Crawdads protagonist Kya craves, the film itself often feels lifeless and bland, lacking the nuance and emotional punch of the novel.

Michele K. Short

While Daisy Edgar-Jones is brilliant at portraying the mix of vulnerability and dogged determination that Crawdads protagonist Kya craves, the film itself often feels lifeless and bland, lacking the nuance and emotional punch of the novel.

Although the film’s release was further clouded by questions about author Owens’ own contact with Zambian authorities, even this distraction cannot hide the fact that this adaptation is likely to polarize both fans and the public. cinema audiences in general.

Director Olivia Newman (2018 wrestling drama First Match) certainly does a great job of creating a sense of space and place, especially when it comes to the swamps, but the courtroom antics rarely go beyond the laughable and the ending (admittedly, as in the book) feels rushed and – without some of the nuance of the novel – lacks the resonance of the source material.

“I didn’t know words could contain so much. I didn’t know a sentence could be so complete,” Kya says as she learns to read, in a speech that becomes key to unraveling the final mysteries of the story. Here, without the narrative follow-up, they look more like empty sentences.

After previews in select theaters today (July 20), Where the Crawdads Sing will screen nationwide starting tomorrow (July 21).