Where the Crawdads Sing (AU - M/UK - 15/US - PG-13)

In a Word: Tense

Where the Crawdads Sing

Daisy Edgar-Jones play Kya Clark in 'Where the Crawdads Sing'. PICTURE: Michelle K Short/© 2021 CTMG, Inc. All rights reserved.

Based on Delia Owens' best-selling 2018 novel, Where The Crawdads Sing is a tense melodrama-come-murder mystery set in the beautiful landscapes of the North Carolina marshlands.

Set in the late 1960s, the story centres on Kya Clark (played Daisy Edgar-Jones and Jojo Regina as a child), who lives alone in the marshlands and, who, as the story opens, is accused of the murder of local quarterback and favoured son of the fictional community of Barkley Cove, Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson).

"Exploring the ideas of prejudice and what it means to live on the edge, Where The Crawdads Sing has echoes of previous southern courtroom dramas like To Kill A Mockingbird and brings with it some stunning cinematography with lingering scenes of the changing landscapes of the marshlands."

Facing the death penalty, she's defended by formerly retired local attorney Tom Milton (David Strathairn) who has the task of not only defending her against the evidence presented, but the rumours and speculation which surrounds her life as an outsider.

Through his gentle questioning of her and the trial that follows, Kya's life then plays out through a series of flashback scenes in the lead-up to the events of the night when Andrews died. Through a series of flash-back scenes, it's revealed how her family disintegrated thanks to the violence of her father (Garret Dillahunt), leaving her, as a small child, to live alone in the family home, isolated in the marshlands.

But thanks to the help of the Black owners of a local store, 'Jumpin' (Sterling Macer Jr) and Mabel (Michael Hyatt) - who know what it is to live as on the margins, and a local boy who befriends her - Tate Walker (played by Taylor John Smith) - she's able to survive and eke out a living living among the waterways and wildlife. Until her life is turned upside down when Andrews' body is found lying in the marsh.

Exploring the ideas of prejudice and what it means to live on the edge, Where The Crawdads Sing has some echoes of previous southern courtroom dramas like To Kill A Mockingbird and brings with Polly Morgan's stunning cinematography featuring lingering scenes of the changing landscapes of the marshlands and the birdlife that lives within it.

Director Olivia Newman keeps the pressure on the audience throughout with threats to Kya never too far away. But in the midst of that we're also taken to some genuine moments of beauty and delight as we explore the marshlands through Kya's eyes and as she explores a budding romance with Tate. 

Edgar-Jones' commanding portrayal of the shy yet strong Kya makes the show - and delivers some strong messages about the resilience of women - but we're also treated to some strong performances throughout including by Strathairn and Smith. 

Featuring a slow reveal building up to an interesting conclusion, Where The Crawdads Sing is an intelligent film that reflects the beauty and the danger of the marshes in which its largely set.