“Where the Crawdads Sing” brings novel back to life with cinematic revival

Review by NinaMcMullen

Delia Owens created an instant classic with her 2018 murder-mystery novel “Where the Crawdads Sing.” To most audiences’ chagrin, it almost instantly got a cinematic adaptation. Although this seems like a quick turnaround going from an initial publishing in 2018 to the 2022 film release date, it was all too relevant and continues to resonate across theaters and pages. 

As for the film itself, it seems like the only thing people can agree on is the fact that the cinematography knocked it out of the park. The marshes and beaches were beautifully captured emphasizing how, at times, it can feel beyond lonely and, at times, it can be the perfect spot to call home. The use of close ups is sparse enough to make it feel truly meaningful. Daisy Edgar-Jones portrays the main character, Kya Clark, and does a wonderful job of showing raw emotion through the hardships her character feels. The other unlikely heroes who stole the screen were the loveable Jumpin’ and his wife, Mabel (portrayed by Sterling Macer Jr. and Michael Hyatt respectively). The duo showed the perfect amount of charm and loyalty felt when reading the book.

And for just about everything else relating to the movie, reviews were extremely mixed. Roger Ebert writes for rogerebert.com calling the film “usually tepid and restrained” and goes on to claim the movie was “sorely lacking in actual substance or suspense.” Sophie Butcher, who writes for Empire Online, agrees, saying it “struggles to live up to the promising popularity of its source material. A flat, flair-free and uninspiring adaptation.”

On one hand, there is all this negative discourse and on the other, book lovers rave about the perfection of the film. Lindsay Harper, representing Desert News, says this cinematic release “has brought Delia Owens’ bestselling novel to life in the most tragically beautiful way.” Most of the ravings have to deal with the thematic elements that were portrayed in a wonderfully hard-to-look away manner.

In my opinion, there were parts where this movie really excelled and parts where it fell flat. One particular part that shined to me was the cinematography. I think the settings were beautifully portrayed and emphasized emotions intended to be felt by the audience. For example, when Kya felt alone and useless, the sandy beaches showed a vast emptiness that visually echoed. 

A part that seemed to fall short was the big reveals this novel is known for. I won’t spoil anything but of all the tense moments and nail biting page turners, I was on the edge of my seat in the theater one time. The classic movie formula of “suspense, climax, resolution” took a hard fall here and pretty much always skipped the crucial step of suspense. Sometimes, even climax would be bypassed before immediately going to resolution. 

In all, this movie has extremely polar opposite reviews and each viewer will have a different reaction to the film. But this is a beautiful thing! Films are supposed to elicit drastically different emotions from individuals and creating something that everyone can consume in their own unique way is the perfect accomplishment for a filmmaker.

Banner by Sony Pictures

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