Where the Crawdads Sing – birds, critters, bullying and betrayal in the swamp

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The natural history embedded in Delia Owen’s debut novel leaps off the page and onto the cinema screen in Where the Crawdads sing. North Carolina’s waterways and swamps, insects, birds, crustaceans and molluscs are captured in exquisite detail alongside their young documentarian Kya.

Kya grew up in a distant home that suffered from domestic violence from her alcoholic father which led to the departure of her mother, siblings and eventually even her father, leaving Kya to learn to survive and thrive on her own- even in the 1960s. She is known as the “Marsh Girl” to the wary townspeople who never welcomed the family into their community and did nothing to protect the children. The only people looking after her are Ma and Pa (Ahna O’Reilly and Garret Dillahunt) at the local store.

A boy she meets as she travels through the swamps to collect mussels to sell is interested in her. Tate (Taylor John Smith) patiently educates Kya in the 3 Rs and treats her with respect before ghosting her completely. A second young man Chase (Harris Dickinson) enters her life and is far less pure of heart and manipulated with her emotions. His death is pinned on the strange Marsh Girl whom the town has mythologized into a swamp monster. His attorney (David Strathairn) valiantly attempts to deconstruct the flimsy mountain of speculation that is presented as evidence.

The film is built like a long series of flashbacks, sometimes interrupted by a legal drama. However, the flashbacks are far more interesting than the mundane legal scenes meant to maintain the sense of suspense. But we should be grateful that it’s only a two-hour movie and not a six-part miniseries.

Jojo Regina and then Daisy Edgar-Jones (Normal People) gave life and soul to the central character, creating a warm, yet solitary character who is more comfortable studying and drawing the swamp than interacting with the other humans who threaten to disturb him and disturb him. his peaceful existence. Both of their performances carry undramatic scenes as we watch a girl grow up alone.

Great credit goes to the filmmakers who beautifully capture the birds and beasts of the swamp. And Kya’s shack and its archive of designs are a tribute to the painstaking eye of the production designers.

At the end of the day, Where the Crawdads sing is a story of humor. It’s about how a community can bully and betray someone they should protect. It’s about alternative lifestyles. About thriving and surviving when no one is by your side.

Unfortunately, Where the Crawdads sing is also head-scratching to wonder how a hermit can have such a natural sense of fashion and whether such an expansive wardrobe is realistic given his day-to-day existence living off the swamp.

The final twist is true to the book but most likely unnecessary in the movies. Aside from the prosecutor’s case in court, the film leaves open at least one other explanation for the death at the heart of the story. The manner of the on-screen explanation, after over two hours in the cinema pondering the possibilities, somewhat spoiled the sense of intrigue.

Where the Crawdads sing screens at the Queen’s Film Theater as well as The Strand, Omniplex, Movie House, Odeon and Cineworld cinemas.

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