For a movie that takes such nice pains to immerse viewers within the atmosphere of 1 particular nook of the USA, The place the Crawdads Sing is shockingly bland. Tailored from Delia Owens’ best-selling 2018 novel, the brand new movie explores the lifetime of a younger lady who’s pressured to boost herself in a marsh in North Carolina. The movie, which takes place all through the Nineteen Fifties and Nineteen Sixties, spends a substantial period of time discussing and showcasing the murky wetland that emerges as its protagonist’s unlikely residence.
Nonetheless, The place the Crawdads Sing by no means really takes benefit of its backwoods setting. Even when a stunning homicide within the movie’s central marsh threatens to show the lifetime of its younger heroine the other way up, The place the Crawdads Sing stays surprisingly unimaginative, and its refusal to decide to the darker gothic components of its story renders the movie lifeless. Consequently, what might have been a moody and immersive homicide thriller as a substitute finally ends up feeling extra like a protected cross between a late-era Nicholas Sparks adaptation and an uninspired, psychologically skinny character examine.
The place the Crawdads Sing follows Catherine “Kya” Clark (Daisy Edgar-Jones from the Hulu sequence Regular Folks), a younger lady who’s positioned beneath arrest for the suspected homicide of Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson) within the movie’s opening prologue. After a kind-hearted lawyer (David Strathairn) subsequently provides to signify her, Kya rapidly finds herself in the course of a trial that has the ability to find out her whole future. From that time on, The place the Crawdads Sing adopts a multi-timeline construction, one that enables it to discover Kya’s life main as much as her arrest whereas continuously slicing again to the occasions of her present-day trial.
By means of the movie’s prolonged flashback sequences, we’re given glimpses into Kya’s troublesome childhood and the years she spent dwelling beneath the thumb of her abusive father (Garret Dillahunt). After her father unexpectedly abandons her, the movie follows Kya as she is pressured to discover ways to survive on her personal within the unforgiving marsh she calls residence. The place the Crawdads Sing then picks up with Kya years later when she begins to draw the eye of not solely a good-looking younger man named Tate Walker (Taylor John Smith) but additionally Harris Dickinson’s Chase Andrews, the very man whose demise will ship her present-day life spiraling into chaos.
Between its central homicide, distinctive marshland setting, and doubtlessly tense courtroom subplot, The place the Crawdads Sing has all the required substances to be an involving, psychologically darkish homicide thriller. Nonetheless, the movie itself is oddly lighter, each visually and tonally, than its premise would have you ever imagine. Its strategy to violence finally ends up feeling notably missing, with director Olivia Newman keen to depict the varied horrific acts which can be perpetrated towards Kya by the boys round her however not the payback that she is justifiably keen to unleash when the necessity arises.
The movie’s unusual angle towards its violence is barely made extra obvious by its reluctance to really lean into the darker elements of its story. The marsh that Edgar-Jones’ Kya calls house is brightly lit all through a lot of the movie, which robs the atmosphere of its doubtlessly gothic environment. Newman, as a substitute, chooses to shoot The place the Crawdads Sing’s quite a few marsh sequences as if the atmosphere had been pulled out of a fairytale, with mild streaming in from all instructions and flowers blooming in every single place you look. It’s a alternative that makes the movie’s total aesthetic really feel incongruous with its undeniably grim story.
Lucy Alibar’s flashback-heavy script, in the meantime, succeeds at turning The place the Crawdads Sing right into a complete portrait of its protagonist’s life, however it additionally forces the movie to maneuver at an unbearably languid tempo. After diving proper into the present-day, investigative aspect of its story, The place the Crawdads Sing goes on to spend most of its runtime prior to now, following Edgar-Jones’ Kya as she develops the abilities that’ll allow her to reside on her personal and the relationships that’ll flip her life into an emotionally exhausting mess. Sadly, the movie’s intense deal with Kya’s previous additionally results in the courtroom scenes that she shares with Strathairn’s Tom feeling like footnotes in The place the Crawdads Sing’s story.
That particularly turns into the case throughout the movie’s second act, which introduces Smith’s Tate and Dickinson’s Chase in addition to the essentially totally different romantic relationships that Kya varieties with each of them over time. It’s on this part that The place the Crawdads Sing turns into a drawn-out romantic melodrama that, regardless of Edgar-Jones’ palpable chemistry with each Smith and Dickinson, solely serves to additional spotlight the monotonous nature of the movie’s plot.
The few emotionally affecting moments that The place the Crawdads Sing does ship all come from Edgar-Jones’ succesful efficiency as Kya. Regardless of being pressured to say a number of strains that, frankly, work higher in a guide than they do in a movie, Edgar-Jones nonetheless manages to make Kya’s energy and insecurities really feel actual. She brings a quiet steadiness to her character that not solely provides additional authenticity to the movie’s characterization of her but additionally makes it straightforward to purchase into a few of the extra questionable or troublesome choices that she is pressured to make all through it.
The truth that she manages to take action in a movie that so usually appears like it’s operating on autopilot is a testomony to Edgar-Jones’ more and more apparent skills as a performer. Not like its lead star although, The place the Crawdads Sing fails to deliver the depth that its story that it so dearly requires. The movie doesn’t totally decide to any of the elements of its plot or setting that would have helped it craft a clearer id for itself, and its disinterest in Kya’s courtroom experiences solely makes the whole lot that occurs all through it really feel all of the extra inconsequential.
Subsequently, whereas it really works as a showcase for Daisy Edgar-Jones, her efficiency isn’t sufficient to cease The place the Crawdads Sing from getting misplaced within the weeds.
The place the Crawdads Sing hits theaters on Friday, July 15.