'Where the Crawdads Sing' Finds Harmony in Nature Directed by Olivia Newman

Starring Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickinson, Michael Hyatt, Sterling Macer Jr., Garret Dillahunt, Ahna O'Reilly,
'Where the Crawdads Sing' Finds Harmony in Nature Directed by Olivia Newman
Photo: Michele K. Short / Sony Pictures
Based on the New York Times bestselling novel of the same name, Where the Crawdads Sing is a beautifully haunting story of one girl's quiet resilience in a film that floats across multiple genres: thriller, romance and, ultimately, survival story.

Directed by Olivia Newman and produced by Reese Witherspoon, the film moves between the present and flashbacks to the past. The film starts with the discovery of a body of a beloved local boy, Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson), and Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is arrested on suspicion of the murder. Local lawyer Tom Milton (David Strathairn) defends her in court, which is when she takes viewers into the past to share her story.

She was the youngest child of an abusive alcoholic father, Pa (Garret Dillahunt), and as her mother (Ahna O'Reilly) and siblings all start to leave the house to get away from the man, Kya is left to survive on her own with him until his death in 1959. She continues to stay in their remote North Carolina house, finding comfort in the marshes after being shunned by the folks in town who simply call her the "Marsh Girl." 

Alone in the wilderness, she learns to survive by selling mussels to a couple, Jumpin (Sterling Macer Jr.) and Mabel (Michael Hyatt), at the town store. When she's older, she meets a Tate Walker (Taylor John Smith), a decent guy who grew up on the creek and teaches Kya how to read and write. They soon fall for each other, but Tate has to leave her to go off to college, promising to return.  

In the meantime, Chase enters the picture and woos Kya with ill intensions, and she gets her heart broken again.  

The theme of abuse is handled sensitively and subtly. The ripple effects of Kya's abusive upbringing are felt through the film, effectively capturing the silent nature of her trauma, which arises when least expected.

The beautiful backdrop of nature and the marsh plays an important role in the film, both haunting and inviting. At one moment the marsh feels like a comfort blanket, and then eerie the next — a testament to the production team. The team didn't just rely on the actors' performances, but also used visual language through the stunning landscape to tell a story that sits with viewers long after.

Whether you have read the book or not, the mystery and romance is beautifully woven together and draped on the shoulders of Edgar-Jones's performance.  She brings out the different shades of Kya with such gravitas — her depths and vulnerabilities, her strength and ferociousness, her thoughtfulness and trauma — all at once. The actor has a knack for such intricate characters, seen before with her terrific performance in Fresh.  She truly is a force of nature.

There's never a dull moment in the film. The audience is invited to get to know Kya just as the case is being unraveled — slowly giving us pieces of the puzzle.  

That being said, the film is clearly geared towards a specific audience. If YA novels are not your scene, this might not be up your alley. The movie is made for fans of the book, keeping to the spirit of the novel, but also doubles as a glossy summer film for those who like young adult stories. I was left thinking about that jaw-dropping ending, which is completely earned, long after the film ends — while humming Taylor Swift's "Carolina." (Sony)