Release Date – 22nd July 2022, Cert – 15, Run-time – 2 hours 5 minutes, Director – Olivia Newman
A young woman (Daisy Edgar-Jones) living alone in a North Carolina marsh finds herself put on trial in front of a town who look down on her, for the murder of a man (Harris Dickinson) she was in a relationship with.
“Whenever I stumbled the marsh caught me” claims Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones), a young woman who has spent much of her life raising herself, after growing up with an abusive father (Garret Dillahunt), in the expansive marshland of North Carolina. It’s been the place where her small, tucked away home has been a place of solitude and safety away from the nearby business and increasing modernity of the local town. A town which for years has spread rumours and myths about ‘the marsh girl’ – a figure who could very well be the missing link in human evolution. Such rumours make her the prime suspect in the murder of local man Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson) – who she also once had a relationship with.
As the town instantly takes against Kya once more it appears that only one man is willing to support her, lawyer Tom Milton (an, as expected, excellent David Strathairn). As he, and the state, present evidence and the trial unfolds we see various flashbacks into Kya’s life, and her two key relationships with Chase and fisherman Tate Walker (Taylor John Smith). From the opening there’s a compelling story to be told. There’s something almost indescribable about just how much your brought in from the simple tension of a police chase via boats through the marsh, helped by the understated direction of Olivia Newman. While this feeling might calm down as the film goes on and we explore Kya’s relationships there’s still a consistent style and tone to the piece that keeps you engaged and interested in the general goings on which refrain from asking you whether you think the central figure did the murder or not, simply showing you the events of her life in the build up. Only really raising the question in the brief moments of the court trial and the points that link to the flashbacks, etc.
Where the film succeeds most is in its performances. The likes of Edgar-Jones, Strathairn and Sterling Macer Jr and Michael Hyatt as a couple who own a small shop within the marsh all bring home many of the dramatic points of the film and help to power them through, lifting them up and keeping the viewer interested and engaged. It’s also perhaps reason why the modern day elements, which admittedly Macer Jr and Hyatt appear little in, contain some of the strongest points of the film. This may be down to the fact that I’m just a sucker for a courtroom drama, but the ways in which the performances, if briefly, get to shine and take part in the developing nature of the trial are just fun to play along with and see unfold – especially from Strathairn whose closing statement has lead the trailer for the film (alongside publicity for the film containing an original song by Taylor Swift).
It takes a little bit of time to actually hear Kya properly speak. When she does the first words that come form her mouth are “people forget about the creatures who live in shells”. It’s an idea that the film plays with and echoes throughout its relatively easy 2 hour run-time. Kya is seen as an outsider by nearly everyone around her, made to feel like an outside and even more lonely than she already is. This comes across rather well and certainly sets up a number of the themes and ideas that play out within the plot and the relationships which are formed by the central character throughout the film, and are pivotal to her overall character and development. Helped by Edgar-Jones’ central performance and a strong cast of, if minor in screen time, supporting faces there’s enough to keep you engaged and interested within the central focus of Where The Crawdads Sing.
While it might lose its compelling edge after a little while Where The Crawdads Sing remains a consistent and engaging drama lead by a selection of strong, if brief, supporting performances which help to lift up the well-established themes and ideas surrounding Edgar-Jones’ excellent central character.