By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Justin Hall at the Movies: ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ falls flat on screen
‘Where the Crawdads Sing’
This image released by Sony Pictures shows Daisy Edgar-Jones (“Kya”) in a scene from “Where the Crawdads Sing.” Photo by Michele K. Short/Sony Pictures via AP

“Where the Crawdads Sing” is the adaptation of the 2018 best-selling novel by Delia Owens, and fans will appreciate this version, regardless of whatever critics like me have to say. To the movie’s credit, I give it points for Daisy Edgar-Jones’ earnest, committed performance, and there’s fantastic cinematography by Polly Morgan throughout.

As for the rest of the movie, it wrestles way too much with its disjointed plot structure, and it’s that structure that proves to be its Achilles heel.

Edgar-Jones stars as Catherine Danielle “Kya” Clark, a young girl living near a marsh in North Carolina in the 1950s and ‘60s. She also goes by the name of “The Marsh Girl.” Kya is raised by her alcoholic father after her mother and siblings leave to escape his abusive ways.

Kya is accused of murdering her former boyfriend Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson), and the whole town wants to see her suffer. Her lawyer in the case is Tom Hilton (David Straitharn), and he’s one of the few people who support Kya and believe her to be innocent.

The movie is dovetailed by flashback sequences of Kya’s childhood, including some scenes showing she doesn’t know how to read and write until she meets Tate Walker (Taylor John Smith) and he teaches her. Eventually, their relationship blossoms — 10 points if you can see where it’ll head.

Kya becomes devastated when Tate breaks up with her to go to college, but he vows to come back for her. Another 10 points if you can see where this plot thread leads.

Soon Kya crosses paths with Chase, and their relationship takes off. Despite his advances, Kya rejects him when he starts becoming aggressive, and she escapes being assaulted by him. It’s while she’s away that she finds out that he’s been murdered, which sets the plot into motion.

Owens’ novel has been embraced by 12 million people — the number of copies it’s sold. This movie was made for those hardcore fans, who will eat it up like a Southern delicacy. I was not one of them.

The flashback sequences mostly work despite their conventionality due to a decent amount of character development, but when the film shifts gears to the courtroom scenes, it loses momentum. It feels like we’re seeing two different movies with opposing tones. The end result is jarring. Plus, by the time we get to the inevitable twist at the climax, it’s sort of hard to care because we’ve been jerked around for so long regarding who murdered Chase. My verdict on this adaptation is that it’s a Southern-fried flick that audiences will love or hate, but I consider it to be one of the biggest botched opportunities of the year.

Grade: C+

(Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some violence including a sexual assault.)

Sign up for our e-newsletters