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Where The Crawdads Sing

Love, loss and all the complexities of youth. If you’re looking to be absorbed in a film that will leave you warmed by reminiscence, Olivia Newmans stunning adaptation of Delia Owens ‘Where The Crawdads Sing’ should be high on your list.

Newman uses sharp imagery, beautiful cinematography and a naturalistic narrative to portray the life of an abandoned and neglected  Kya (Normal Peoples Daisy Edgar-Jones), as she struggles through the perils of loneliness and love in this intricate coming of age story.

Set in the marshes of Barkley Cove, this story is ignited by the unexplained death of a young quarterback - Chase (Harris Dickinson), who is later revealed as one of Kya’s knuckle headed lovers. Suspense and suspicion from the onset. Accused of murder, an outcast Kya is put on trial, but for her lawyer (David Straithairn) to defend her, he must first know the person he is fighting to save. Thus we are enthralled in a journey  of a young girls transformation from youth to adulthood.

Director Olivia Newman uses exposed images to portray the hard to capture feeling of love. To watch a life evolve through a well constructed narrative is a true joy, however I left feeling very out of touch with the story. This film is based on a novel and as such it has a lot substance for inspiration when writing the script, however this slightly drab storyline left me feeling cold by the end.

We are shown young Kya as she recounts her life, which means we should be invested in the character standing trial, but I was not.

This film follows three close themes, love, loss and family and in doing so it delves into the anxiety of stepping into the unknown. An abusive father, scarred by the dissatisfaction of his own life, forces Kya’s entire family to flee from their home. Left alone with her father (before he too leaves) a six year old Kya must learn to fend for herself. Finding a reliable constant in nature, a young and talented artist is born, she sketch’s the flora and wildlife that surrounds her. Putting her resourceful nature into play, Kya scavenges mussels that she sells to her adopted caretakers, local store owners played by Michael Hyatt & Sterling Macer.

Afraid to grasp any life outside of the marshes, Kya stays isolated in her humid box of dissatisfaction, a young Tate (Taylor John Smith) sparks a romance between the pair, as he strives to teach Kya all the work he’s learnt at school. These scenes of the pair and their budding love are ‘sweet’ but not heartfelt, they rush through the highs and lows of their love before Tate decides he must leave for college. This incessant rush, I believe, is what ruins this film, you can clearly tell that it is based on a novel and that the writer has tried to cram all the best bits in the script; in doing so, so much beauty is lost.

Regardless of this strange decision on pacing, neat subtleties gel each scene together, jumping from Kya’s youth to adulthood, each scene flows seamlessly into the next. Close ups of nails being picked and sketches being drawn in the courtroom, keep us half engulfed in this naturalistic narrative.

The relationship of human and nature is told through Kya’s dovetail with the marshes , a place where she finds much beauty and inspiration for her work. Captured in immense detail, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the marshes myself, the breathtaking imagery left me feeling that the possibilities of success in this setting were endless.

Fluctuating pacing and an array of decently formed characters keep this film unfolding scene by scene. Our protagonist’s love interests however are freakishly similar in appearance and for the most part, extremely forgettable.

Now of course this film isn’t all love and laughter, we must remember that a ‘murder’ has been committed. Set in the gloom of suspicion and accusation we are dragged through the relentlessness of a dysfunctional family, headed by an abusive father so dissatisfied with his placement in life.

Recounted through conversations with Kya’s lawyer, we are thrown into flashbacks of the harshness that moulded the woman we see on screen; how she fended for herself when anything reminiscent of kin fled her life. This use of storytelling works in the films favour, helping to carry the action forward, told through the voice of our unreliable narrator: Kya.

Despite the gloom, in every tragedy, there is a silver-lining and in this coming of age story, it is of course the rollercoaster of love.

So, to conclude, this isn’t your classic who done it. This film has so much promise and so much beauty in the visuals, however a lacking story lead to me leaving the cinema forgetful of what I’d just watched. A terribly constructed reveal at the end of the film, felt like a cheap copout, as though the writers pen fell bored and stopped in its tracks.

Like all coming of age stories this film had a warm air to it, but sadly it had no punch to its narrative. In addition, the much awaited big reveal of who actually committed the murder and how, is overshadowed by a elongated scene of disappointment. So we don’t even get the satisfaction of full closure. Lead astray by our narrator, we are left with the proposed question, is our protagonist the hero?

Watch when it’s on the small screen.

🌟: 2/5

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