hamburger menu icon

Close-Up with Camenker Volume XXXV, Movie Review: WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

July 20, 2022

I’ve recently been on a huge reading kick and decided to finally pick up the highly lauded novel Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens a few weeks ago. I had seen a trailer for the film at Red River recently and was drawn to it immediately. I absolutely loved the book and became even more excited to see the film.

Fortunately, the film did not disappoint and while it does not match the novel in greatness, it does provide a solid adaptation that is fairly close to the text most of the time, still capturing the heart of the novel.

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING is the story of a young woman who local folks call “The Marsh Girl,” living and growing up in the marshlands of North Carolina. We come to know her as “Kya” (a nickname for Catherine) and watch her blossom into an adult as hardship forces her to come of age a lot faster and largely on her own.

The book has been described as a mix of coming-of-age, romance, murder mystery, and courtroom drama, which the film certainly captures, though not as deeply as the text. The coming-of-age is lost a bit in the need to transition at a faster pace while the courtroom scenes are a bit more limited for the same reason. The former is much more missed in my opinion. While we have scenes of Kya coming into her own, they are not nearly as deep or personal.

At its heart, though, the romance and murder mystery that drive the novel also drive the film, which would be incomplete without inclusion. Additionally, the emphasis on nature is paramount as that focus further drives the plot and characterization.

The setting in the book is described magically with gorgeous prose and descriptiveness. Luckily, the movie does not put the scenery aside, even though it lacks the prose. Beautifully photographed and shot in the bayou, the nature that Kya lives and that Owens describes so gorgeously in the novel comes alive on the screen. Coupled with a great score by Oscar-winner Mychael Danna and featuring some authentic banjo, the music also captures the mood and is exactly what you would expect.

I sometimes will read a novel after it has been adapted into a film and when I’ve perhaps seen the movie’s trailer. This makes images of characters live in your brain before you can develop your own version of how they might look. I did not let that happen here, though, as I only saw the trailer once and avoided looking at images of the production while reading.

Fortunately, the characters are ultimately captured well with most having a similar look to what you might imagine. The acting is also quite good. I want to highlight two performances that I think stand out as the strongest: Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kya and David Strathairn as Tom Milton. 

Edgar-Jones is an up-and-coming actress who I recently enjoyed in the Hulu miniseries UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN. Here, she transforms as Kya, capturing her inner soulfulness and deep love of nature. She has the emotional range that the character in the novel also captures. I look forward to what she might do next.

Strathairn, a long-time great supporting actor, really hones in on the role of Kya’s attorney Tom. He captures Kya’s uniqueness in one particular speech that emphasizes how her community has come to view and shun her. Not only does this show his own incredible range, but it also stands the test of his character’s development, which is not as prominent in the book, but works well here. 

The theme of being judgmental is at the core of the unique connection that Kya and Tom develop, which really does go even deeper here than in the novel. Overall, this story is a perfect example of why it’s crucial not to judge a book by its cover, which comes out clearly via Kya.

While some of the other acting and character development is not as strong and the elegant prose of the text is sorely missed even with some narration and wording directly adapted from the novel, I still liked the film overall. I will let readers of the book who plan to view the film reserve their own judgment regarding the book vs. the movie, but I would imagine many lovers of the text would agree on some counts and disagree on others.

It’s nice when a film still holds strong and a story has not been altered too deeply. The changes that the movie makes are subtle, the character development that is lacking is likely for solid reasons, and the overarching themes and focuses remain strong.

I hope you enjoy the book, the film, or both if you’ve not yet read or seen them. The story is one that we can all relate to somehow, I think, even if Kya the marsh girl is completely unlike anyone we’ve ever met.

Stay tuned for Volume XXXVI of “Close-Up with Camenker,” which will return soon!

Click here to learn more about Zach!

Become a member

Discounted tickets  /  Free Popcorn  /  So much more...

Donate to our annual fund

Your annual gift is necessary and has impact.

  • Red River is the best cinematic experience that my wife and I have ever had – viewing angle, sound, seating, snacks, staff, web site are top shelf, and the movie selections themselves are talked about for days.

  • My favorite place to see a movie. I always know that whenever I drop in to Red River Theatres, I’ll have a great cinematic experience.

  • Red River Theatres enhances the quality of life in Concord and throughout New Hampshire by offering a continuous selection of the finest and most critically acclaimed movies ranging from independent gems to documentaries to foreign films.

Red River Theatres, Inc.

11 S. Main Street Suite L1-1

Concord, NH 03301

Phone Numbers

Movie Phone: 603.224.4600

Main Office: 603.224.4697

Email Address