Daisy Edgar Jones Taylor John Smith David Strathairn
Michael Hyatt Sterling Macer, Jr. Harris Dickinson
A beautifully rendered film about a remarkable child abandoned by her family and growing up alone in a shack in the marshland of North Carolina. Isolated from most of the town of Barkley Cove, she is called “the marsh girl” by townspeople who make up all kinds of negative stories about her.
There are kindly people who help Kya (Jones), like young Tate (Smith) who is a friend of her brother’s and has seen her in the marshes. As a teenager he offers to teach her to read. Also, the black couple, Mabel (Hyatt) and Jumpin (Macer) who own a small grocery seem to understand that she is abandoned and help her in dignified ways. But most of the people in the town regard her with suspicion and make fun of her.
So when swaggering young hotshot Chase Andrews (Dickinson), whom Kya had had a brief affair with turns up dead, Kya becomes the prime suspect in his murder.
The film is well paced, leisurely giving a detailed picture of Kya’s family and early life showing how she became so independent and merged with the natural environment surrounding her. So knowledgeable about birds and the animals she comes to know so well, Kya becomes an illustrator, thanks to the encouragement of her friend Tate, her first love.
When the tale transitions to the mystery of Chase’s death, the pace quickens and we see more of the cruelty Kya experienced with her family and the keen disappointments she suffers when key people let her down. Balancing this heartbreak is the kindly retired attorney Tom Milton (Strathairn) who has generously taken on the task of defending her against the murder charge.
Big plusses in this maximally engaging film are the acting, the writing, the directing, the music, and the cinematography. Daisy Edgar Jones, Taylor John Smith, and David Strathairn are captivating in their portrayal of the three lead roles, solidly backed up by Michael Hyatt and Sterling Macer, Jr. Harris Dickinson embodies the less appealing Chase most convincingly.
The direction by Olivia Newman shows her talent in adapting the popular novel by Delia Owens into a film that captures the audience’s full attention throughout. The 2+ hour film sped by. Music by Mychael Danna lives up to his previous award-worthy compositions in Life of Pi, Moneyball, and Little Miss Sunshine. Although the film is supposed to take place in North Carolina, it was actually filmed in Louisiana, but Polly Morgan’s lush cinematography fools you into thinking it is North Carolina, especially when you see Kya running through the brush hiding from those trying to find her.
This is a tender and heartstrings-puller love story, an example of female child pluckiness, an absorbing murder mystery and trial, and a commentary of pride and prejudice of the type found in small communities even today.
It should be noted that Reese Witherspoon is one of the producers. Release was postponed at one point following an ABC news-magazine show Turning Point and articles in The New Yorker and Atlantic magazines, casting some suspicion on prior activities of the author of the book, Delia Owens and her husband Mark.
Go to Where the Crawdads Sing to find a gripping story of valor, discovery, and delight.
Grade: A By Donna R. Copeland