When asked about my favorite novel, I often give Delia Owens’s “Where the Crawdads Sing” as my answer. The book is about a young girl living alone in a marsh who is accused of murder. I thought the book was a perfect mix of mystery, drama, and romance. As you can imagine, I was thrilled when I heard it was being made into a movie, and I eagerly awaited its release for many months. After much anticipation, I am pleased to say the movie met or even exceeded my expectations.
I was initially worried that, because I already knew the plot and remembered even the smaller details quite well, I would not get as invested in the movie as I would have had I not read the book. Luckily, this was not the case at all. There was not a moment in the entire movie in which I was bored or wished it would move faster, besides when I was curious as to what would happen next.
Kya Clark (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is abandoned at a very young age by her whole family, left to fend for herself in the marshes of North Carolina. Despite her difficult situation, Kya’s fascination with the wildlife surrounding her provides her with the excitement and knowledge to keep her going. Kya is involved in romances with two different suitors as she grows up, but when one of them is murdered, Kya is the prime suspect. The movie interweaves her court trial with her coming-of-age in a suspenseful and heart-wrenching two hours.
So what exactly made this movie a success in my eyes? First off, the scenery and setting were breathtaking. It was impossible to imagine how expansive and beautiful the marsh and the nature described in the novel could be when reading, so I truly appreciated seeing it in the movie. Further, Kya Clark was sweet and charming, and I felt so many strong emotions toward her throughout the story. Not to mention, the younger version of Kya (Jojo Regina) was adorably heartbreaking, yet strong and inspiring, seeing as she raised herself after overcoming the loss of her entire family.
Despite all these positives, however, I still preferred the book to the movie. As with many movie adaptations, I felt that the relationships and characters in general were less fleshed out than I would have liked. For example, Kya and her brother Jody (Logan Macrae) supposedly have a special bond when they are younger, but I barely saw this in the movie, causing some later plot points to lose much of their emotional resonance. Another factor that differed in the movie was the balance between the different storylines. I felt as though the movie heavily focused on the romance between Kya and Tate (Taylor John Smith), as well as that of Kya and Chase (Harris Dickinson). While these are important aspects of the novel, the murder trial, as well as Kya’s life in the marsh on her own and her professional endeavors, which are equally highlighted in the book, felt like side stories in the movie.
Finally, what I most disliked about the movie was the way the murder trial was portrayed. Because of the level of detail with which it was explored in the book, I felt I had all the evidence I needed to believe, without a doubt, that Kya was innocent. In the movie, on the other hand, it felt more ambiguous and less obvious that Kya not only didn’t commit, but couldn’t have committed the murder.
Despite all the ways in which I preferred the book, I still recommend the movie to anyone, whether you have or haven’t read the book. Somewhat unusually, if you are someone who is interested in both reading the book and watching the movie but haven’t yet done either, I recommend you watch the movie before reading the book. While the movie’s audience is eager to know the outcome of the trial and the plotlines, I think the most enjoyable aspect of the book is the level of detail in which it is written, as well as the development of the characters and relationships. The movie may be slightly less enjoyable if you’ve read the book already, because you know the ending, which the movie is more focused on. If you watch the movie first, you will know the ending but will be able to appreciate the detail of the novel and all the aspects that were not explored in the movie. Regardless of how you enjoy Kya’s story, on paper, the big screen, or both, you will love the character and feel invested in her success, which I believe makes for an incredible story.