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“Where The Crawdads Sing” is an engrossing drama that doesn’t go for big grandeur moments but a series of satisfying ones throughout its two hours.
|Screenplay By||Lucy Alibar|
|Date Released (In Theaters)||7/14/2022|
|Genre(s)||Drama, Mystery, Romance, Young Adult|
|Duration||2 Hours 5 Minutes|
|1969 Kya||Daisy Edgar-Jones|
|1953 Kya||Jojo Regina|
|Tate||Taylor John Smith|
|James “Jumpin’”||Sterling Macer Jr.|
This content contains pertinent spoilers.
Catherine “Kya” Clark gained the nickname “Marsh Girl” thanks to her rarely leaving her family’s land for most of her life. Mind you, she has no issues getting in a boat, interacting with people, or even going into town. However, after a long series of abandonments throughout her life, getting too close to anyone is fearful.
However, a childhood acquaintance named Tate cracks her shell and has her see the light, alongside two nice people at the store she frequents, Mabel and James, aka Jumpin’. However, a young man named Chase truly changes her world. Mainly due to him reminding her of the worst parts of her daddy and Kya being accused of Chase’s murder.
Things To Note
- Reason(s) for Film Rating: Cursing (Little to none), Violence (Domestic violence – women and children), Sexual Content (Attempted rape, consensual sexual situations, and implied nudity), Miscellaneous (Drinking)
Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.
Kya was the youngest of her parents’ children, and when her parents were together, she was mostly happy. However, her mother left, unwilling to continue to suffer her dad’s abuse, then her siblings, who inherited the punches, beratement, and abuse, Kya eventually was alone. Now, she may have been better able to handle her dad’s PTSD from whatever war he was in, and he might have been a better father with one kid to worry about, but eventually, he left, too, before Kya was even a teenager.
Luckily, while she didn’t know how to cook, Kya knew what was valuable in the marsh and how to trade it for money and food, and thankfully, due to Mabel’s kindness and faith, Kya may not have had much, but she had enough.
Tate is the son of a shrimp netter who, thanks to his intelligence and desire to not be stuck in Barkley, had college in his future. Which is why coming across his friend’s younger sister, years after his friend left without a word, was an unexpected treat. She grew up, was kind, interesting, and compatible with him in a way that wasn’t sparks but was comfortable. Kya loved biology as he did and even drew to the point of Tate collecting the names of publishers she could work with.
But, with Tate’s life taking him away from small-town life and Kya dedicated to the house she grew up in, so comes the question if Tate is meant to be a chapter of Kya’s life or part of his lifetime.
James’ wife is much more than someone who helps him at his shop and does some tailoring. While Mabel didn’t get Kya into biology and help create a means for her to make real money, she was an integral part of Kya surviving on her own for so long. Be it pushing her husband to get more involved than he liked, or making sure, even if it was just church donations, Kya had clothes on her back and someone to go to where she wanted to speak to someone.
With coming up in the segregation era, James was well aware of his position as a popular store in a small town. But, no harm ever came his way thanks to code-switching and keeping his head down. However, thanks to his wife Mabel, while Kya was not kin or even looked like them, she ended up in his life, and while he may never say she was like a daughter, to viewers, you could imagine him seeing her as something close.
Rich, by small-town standards, everyone considered Chase a catch. However, being torn between what his parents wanted for him and his desires, potentially romantic but mostly lustful, for Kya led to Chase’s violent end.
While Tom was retired before Chase’s death, considering he knew Kya wouldn’t get justice, or the right legal advice with anyone else, he took up the cause for he has known her since she was a child, and couldn’t imagine her being a murderer.
Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)
There are only a handful of movies where having a younger version of the lead feels like an asset. There is Sophie Kennedy Clark as the younger version of Philomena in “Philomena,” Darci Shaw as the younger version of Judy in “Judy,” and I’d add Jojo Regina to the list. For a notable part of the movie, she is setting up the foundation for everything Daisy Edgar-Jones delivers. Regina sets up the abandonment issues, the work ethic to maintain independence, and even that first emotional moment that brings tears to your eyes and a tightness in your chest.
Too often, because they aren’t the star or big name, those who lay down the bricks so their older counterpart can shine don’t get their just due. But, while you could submit that Edgar-Jones may not have needed Regina to do what she does, she does take a remarkable bit of the emotional load off her shoulders.
Using A Series Of Low To Midkey Poignant/Emotional Moments vs. Building To One Grand One
“Where The Crawdads Sing” doesn’t put all the movie’s weight on the trial. It isn’t just about you watching and hoping Kya is found innocent and not put to death. It’s about seeing James and Mabel look after her, worry about her, and stick up for her. It’s about the effect Tate has on Kya, both as a kid and as an adult. What the film wants you to experience is a series of highs and lows, which may seem mundane to some, but because of Kya’s isolation, both chosen and forced upon her, it makes everything all the more shaking to the life she lives.
As you’ll see, almost as soon as she gets comfortable with anyone, there is a disappointment, an abandonment, and it becomes a little harder each time to let someone in. But, as shown with Chase, while the baggage becomes more cumbersome, it doesn’t impede waiting to drop the bags and feel the weightlessness of bliss.
It Didn’t Focus On Kya Trying To Keep Her Home Or Being Sent To A Group Home
“Where The Crawdads Sing” has two plots that could have been explored but are not. The first is Kya, who likely has been on her own since she was barely in the double digits, being taken by the state and put in a group home. This is mentioned since it’s expected, considering all the negative rumors about Kya and her living by herself. However, it isn’t explored and pushed beyond an obligatory mention.
The same goes for the question of, considering Kya has lived by herself for years, maybe a decade, what about the taxes for the property? Again, this is brought up and teased to potentially becoming an issue, but it gets resolved quickly so the film can focus on other things.
For other movies, you may feel upset that they swept a problem under the rug and tried to pretend there weren’t lumps under the carpet. But “Where The Crawdads Sing” removes potentially overdramatic elements that allow the film to remain easy to consume and overall filling.
The Romance & Fears of Abandonment
Both parents and four siblings leave Kya behind. No one took her when they left or even tried to. She was repeatedly left behind when a person couldn’t take being in that house with Kya’s daddy or the house’s memories. It doesn’t hit you early on the feelings of loss, but as you see Kya’s skittish way of connecting with people, so begins the grip on your heart.
It begins with Tate, who was friends with Kya’s brother before he left, and him teaching Kya to read and write, since her going to school dirty and barefoot led to the kind of bullying she could barely deal with for more than an hour. His investment, you can see, leads to the kind of romance which may not be hot and heavy nor butterfly-inducing all the way through, but it still feels right. It’s the kind of relationship that isn’t meant to be seen as explosive because it is not meant to be noisy and grandeur. What “Where The Crawdads Sing” wants is for you to understand and appreciate the simple things.
Throughout the movie, Kya doesn’t ask or seem to want much. The marsh and the animals in it are more than enough for her. But, while she doesn’t need or maybe want company, or even a boyfriend, that doesn’t mean she isn’t curious. It doesn’t mean when the opportunity presents itself with Tate or Chase, she outright rejects it.
After all, it feels nice to be wanted. For someone to come by to see you, appreciate your talents, and invest in you. Especially when, as much of a blessing as Mabel and James have always been, it isn’t like they invite Kya to church, visit her, or interact with her if she doesn’t come to their shop. So for someone to show initiative on a consistent basis? It’s hard to, even if you aren’t used to it, not get comfortable while still expecting the worse and hoping for the best.
It Doesn’t Feel As Long As It Is
We’re part of the team who believes any movie past 90 minutes likely has fat that could be trimmed off, more often than not. “Where The Crawdads Sing” doesn’t push that need to wish the movie was shorter. Rarely are you of the opinion things need to be wrapped up for the film gives you an idea of what year it is, there is talk about how much time is passing, and with you knowing the film is going to end with Kya’s trial, you get more than enough signs of how far along in the film you are.
But what really keeps the film steady is the performances. From Edgar-Jones and Regina to Michael Hyatt, Sterling Macer, Taylor John Smith, and more, not a single actor in “Where The Crawdads Sing” doesn’t give you something to react to. Whether it is someone’s kindness, malice, their character’s struggle outside of Kya, or, in the case of David Strathairn as Tom Milton, giving you almost an Atticus Finch-level performance as a lawyer. So while Edgar-Jones is clearly the lead, the writers and directors allow you to form the type of bonds and investments to make the film feel like an ensemble.