Where The Crawdads Sing Review: Clumsily Juggling Genres

This review of Where the Crawdads Sing has been published to coincide with its release in Indian theatres.


Where the Crawdads Sing takes place in the ‘60s in the marshes of North Carolina. It begins with the police finding the body of Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson), who is the town’s hotshot quarterback. Catherine Clark (Daisy Edgar-Jones) – or Kya as nicknamed by her family – lives as a recluse in a shack in the marshlands, and becomes the prime suspect in the murder. She is called “Marsh Girl” by the judgemental townspeople of Barkley Cove and it appears that there is no chance she would have anyone on her side. That is until Tom Milton (David Strathairn), a levelheaded and sensible lawyer comes out of retirement to represent her.

This begins with a narration by Kya to her lawyer which takes us on a journey through time, as we see her childhood, her family abandoning her, and her path from loneliness to romance – often in excruciating detail.

It becomes increasingly apparent that the movie doesn’t know which direction to take: it goes from a romance to a legal drama to a mystery – without sticking to one genre. This leads to an oddly-structured movie. While we are listening to Kya narrate her story to Milton, we are shown every detail of her life, many of which hold no significance to the upcoming trail that she’s set to go through.

The setting of the film mostly takes place in the marshlands, which are captured and portrayed beautifully by director Olivia Newman and cinematographer Polly Morgan. Some romantic scenes from the film look like they belong to a fairy tale. The film makes it a point to also show how Kya is treated by people in the town, however, it ends up remaining vaguely depicted through the many other life details of her life that the film wants us to sit through.

The saving grace of the film is Daisy Edgar-Jones, playing an isolated, deserted girl who ends up trusting the boys that come into her life to escape her solitude and feel loved. They end up betraying the trust and hurt her, by leaving her just like her family did. The film could have expanded more upon these emotions of someone feeling betrayed – but it does not know which direction to take and therefore leaves many things that could have been expanded on behind.

I feel Where The Crawdads Sing would have benefitted greatly from not tepidly treating its mystery aspects and focusing less on mundane details about the characters that are somehow supposed to be linked to the overarching courtroom trail that’s set for the main character. A deeper dive into the characters’ emotions and how the events affected and shaped them was missing, which leads for the final conclusion to fall flat on its face.

Where The Crawdads Sing is a mystery, period romance, and courtroom drama all at once. The film takes multiple paths half-heartedly and ends up as an oddly-structured and non-linear story with a lot of missed potential.

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