Mild and inoffensive, the adaptation of the Delia Jones novel is certainly watchable, but not recommendable. Heather Reynolds reviews the scenery.
Despite its massive success on the bestseller lists, Where The Crawdads Sing fails as an enjoyable film experience. Not for any lack of skill in its direction or its aesthetics - Polly Morgan’s cinematography captures the swamp land in a way that makes viewers truly comprehend just how important the space is and why it has enchanted Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones) so much. The lush, vibrant greens lend an earthy depth to an otherwise aimless, disappointing attempt at a murder mystery.
The disappointing nature of the film is particularly notable because of how many aspects could have made something uniquely interesting. The isolation of the main character and the films apparent acknowledgement of the intersections of sexism and classism, and how they in turn interact with both women’s personal relationships and the judicial system had the potential to create an interesting narrative that engages with modern politics.
The film instead chose to spend its time trying to be every film at once, not spending enough of its run time developing any individual aspect of the plot enough to create an impactful film on any level. Kya’s personal relationships are well acted, but all feel incomplete. Her love interests abandon and abuse her in turn, but without establishing with the audience why they should initially be rooting for the man who abandons her, or why Kya would believe the clearly duplicitous man who abuses her.
The cruelty of the town towards Kya does not feel inaccurate for the setting and period, but it loses its punch by the time the trial scenes begin, feeling less like a strong narrative decision and more of a contrivance to further isolate the protagonist and establish her as an underdog.
All of which culminates with one of the worst examples of shoddy twist writing to be seen in modern cinema, putting itself forward as a moment of great revelation. This less than eleventh hour twist comes across to the audience less as a moment of clarity, and more an underwhelming lie on behalf of the screenwriters, undermining the entire narrative the film spent the last two hours establishing. That is not an exaggeration. With less than five minutes remaining, the film reveals a “twist” that undermines the established narrative to a point where it can no longer be trusted at any point, without ever alluding to the possibility of unreliability in the narration prior.
Without that ending, the film would have been fine. Perfectly watchable, if not mildly enjoyable in its inevitable slot as the Midweek Movie on RTÉ. But the inclusion of that twist, and its lack of build up at any stage, is such a terrible narrative choice that it loses any level of recommendation. The sum of the film is worth less than any of its individual parts.