From Page to Screen: Does Where the Crawdads Sing Soar or Stumble?

This article contains light spoilers for the film and the book.

Four stars

At the beginning of July, I started to read Where the Crawdads Sing. As a fan of Reese Witherspoon, I had heard her production company Hello Sunshine was going to turn it into a film—and I was eager to read it before heading to the cinema. I devoured the book quickly, the first real page-turner I’d read this year. I fell in love with characters such as Kya and Tate, cherished reading of the time they spent together in the Marsh. A few weeks later and I was able to head to my local Odeon and witness the book being brought to the big screen.

My first thought was that Kya was perfectly cast. Having not watched Normal People, this was the first time I’d seen Daisy Edgar-Jones in anything. She managed to portray the shy, gentle Kya very well, exactly as I had imagined, dungarees and all. One Guardian review has criticized that this is not a good Hollywood debut for Edgar-Jones but I disagree with that. The film showcases her acting chops perfectly, and I look forward to seeing her in many more things to come.

I adored the scenery and how the book was brought to life. The film truly captured the beauty of the Marsh, just how scenic it is for Kya to be wandering the waters in her boat. Even her shack is well done, also very much how I had imagined it to be. This is a contrast to some other book to film adaptations I’ve seen where the scenery looks nothing like I had imagined in my head. It really was nice seeing some memorable moments from the book on the big screen, whether it be little moments between Kya and the cat—or bigger moments such as when Kya waits for Tate who never comes. That scene in particular stood out to me—the one where Kya stands in her best dress for hours at the beach, waiting and waiting and waiting, till she realises Tate has disappointed her just like everyone else.

In terms of the music, I absolutely adored Taylor Swift’s song “Carolina”, written especially for the film. I’d already heard the haunting melody before, playing it on repeat back home. I was greatly anticipating hearing the song in the film. Unfortunately, I would have preferred it if the song had actually played during the film itself—it was only played at the credits and I couldn’t stay to listen as I had to catch a bus!

Sadly, not everything was to my taste. One criticism is that the film wasn’t as good at conveying just how lonely Kya has always been. Obviously they couldn’t include everything from the book, so a lot of the scenes of her on her own were cut out. For the majority of the film she is with people, whether it be Jumpin’, Chase, Tate or someone else, whereas in the book she spends the majority of it alone. Some of the best bits from the book were missing from the film or executed poorly. Her being reunited with her brother Jodie, for instance, wasn’t as poignant as the book. What I also missed was all the nature facts that Kya made throughout the novel. There were some in the film, sure, though there could have been so many more. This is all of course understandable – the film is over two hours after all and they can’t fit everything.

Personally, I didn’t think much of the actors playing Tate and Chase. Whilst quite often I have watched a film and then ended up crushing on a lead or two, here I was slightly disappointed. Both Tate and Chase looked so similar, I kept on confusing the two of them. This was in contrast with the book, where I had been crushing hard on Tate from the start.

However, let me finish on a positive. It’s always a good sign when a film makes you cry—and cry I did at the end. I thought the ending in particular was very beautifully done, one of the best endings to a film I’ve seen in a while.

Of course, more often than not the book is better than the film. And whilst I did really love seeing the story being brought to life, it just can’t compete with the richness of Delia Owens’ book. That won’t, however, stop me from playing Carolina on repeat, or devouring every interview or article I can on Where the Crawdads Sing in the coming weeks.

[Emilija Morrison (she/her) @emilijapanda]

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