Those Of The Swamp

 Where the Crawdads Sing
Stars: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickinson, Michael Hyatt, Sterling Macer, Jr., David Strathaim
Director: Olivia Newman
Scriptwriter: Lucy Alibar from the novel “Where the Crawdad Sing” by Delia Owens
Composer: Mychael Danna
Cinematography: Polly Morgan3000 Pictures/Hello Sunshine/Sony Pictures
Rating: PG 13
Running Length: 126 Minutes 

Actress/producer Reese Witherspoon knows a good book when she reads it. and she optioned “Where The Crawdads Sing.” This book came out in 2018. Rather mystical in places, a touch of romance, murder and trying to live in poor conditions for a part of one’s life, all in this novel. No wonder it is an interesting read. Director Olivia Newman has taken her cast of  actors to the screen and shows us a world of what is called “backwater people,” and this world we will enter. Can the two blend at any point? The lead actress, named Kya in the film, is played by Daisy Edgar-Jones (“War Of The Worlds.”) 

The story concerns the life of Kya (also known as Catherine) who lives in North Carolina, near the coast and by swampy ground. Closest town is Barkley Cove. The family is poor, Dad (Garrett Dillahunt) gambles and everyone stays away from him to keep the peace.  As years pass, most of the family leaves and Kya is alone with Dad – until he too, leaves, and at school age, she is really alone. What to do?  Kya is wily and figures out how to keep herself alive.  Buy gas for an old boat and sell mussels.  This keeps her going and the people in town call her “Marsh Girl.”  It seems when Dad left, Kya was lost on open water and a new friend, Tate (Taylor John Smith from “The Outpost.”) helps.  Also, Kya is befriended by a couple, Mabel (Michael Hyatt) and Jumpin’ (Sterling Macer, Jr.) Through the years Tate helps her, but this ends when he goes to college. Kya is one smart girl and has a talent in art and the biology of plants. Eventually, she finds a publisher and with good book sales, keeps the homestead going. Kya is entering her twenties and meets with people her age. One in particular is a handsome dude with the ladies. This is Chase (Harris Dickinson from “The King’s Man.”) He is found murdered and guess what? Kya is accused. What to do? There are surprises as to what comes next and will whet interest as to what is really going on here. A nature mystery, to be sure. 

Though the story is rich with promise, the flashbacks can be disruptive. Time goes by quickly and you wonder about Kya’s choices. Finding a publisher, also, is no mean feat. There are times when you wish Kya would have more expression to her face, There is such a vastness at living near the ocean that it overwhelms the actors, until they come closer to the marsh or a town. For acting, Daisy Edgar-Jones does the part of Kya well, but as noted, rather expressionless.  Sterling Macer, Jr. and Michael Hyatt light up the screen on their scenes. Other than that, body language in playing a part, is running and sad eyes.   

The atmosphere of the marsh is accomplished by Cinematographer Polly Morgan.  You get the essence of sea marsh and what it takes to gain a living here. Composer Mychael Danna’s score adds to the effect of the scenery and together it is a visual and sensory effect. Taylor Swift wrote the lead song, “Carolina” and I am sure it will be noticed at Oscar nomination time. 

By the way, crawdads do not sing. 

*Note: Read about the life of author Delia Owens.. 


Copyright 2022 Marie Asner