Where the Crawdads Sing movie poster

Image: Where the Crawdads Sing Movie Poster

Where the Crawdads Sing movie - beloved book, average movie

The best selling book by Delia Owens was released in theatres today and is an empowering tale of one woman's survival, but falls flat in moments.

Trigger Warning: This film features domestic/family violence, sexual assault, violence. Audience discretion is advised.

Based on the book of the same name by Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing follows the life of Catherine Danielle Clark or Kya (played by Daisy Edgar-Jones) as she navigates living alone in the marshes of North Carolina.


The movie focuses on the murder trial of Chase Andrews (played by Harris Dickinson) who is found dead in the swamp early one morning, with the townspeople of Barkley Cove placing isolated Kya - “the marsh girl” - as the prime suspect of the crime. With alternating timelines, audiences learn about everything that has happened in Kya’s life leading up to the moment of Chase’s death. 

After being abandoned by her mother, siblings and eventually abusive father, Kya learns to look after herself and survive off the land around her. The relationships between Kya and her family are severely underdeveloped in the film with only a few short scenes compared to the sympathetic in-depth backstories provided in the novel.

The only real family Kya has is the adoptive family made up of Jumpin’ (played by Sterling Macer Jr.) and Mabel (played by Michael Hyatt), the kind and compassionate couple who own the gas and supply store who support Kya after her family abandons her.

Jumpin' (Sterling Macer Jr.) and Mabel (Michael Hyatt).

Image: Jumpin' (Sterling Macer Jr.) and Mabel (Michael Hyatt) in their shop.

After only surviving one day in school because of the other children bullying her, Kya learns from the nature around her but still cannot read or write. Enter local boy Tate Walker (played by Taylor John Smith), who teaches her to read and write, all while slowly falling in love with her. 

Some of the most captivating scenes from the film can be found during their relationship including Tate leaving bird feathers for Kya on a tree stump and their first kiss surrounded by swirling CGI leaves.

The love that develops between Kya and Tate is extremely sweet throughout the entire film, minus the brief hiatus when Tate goes away for college.

Tate recognises the talent and passion that Kya has for the marsh and wants her to get her drawings published. Kya is much more proactive in the movie in getting her books published and does everything herself, despite the novel describing Tate doing much of the groundwork.

As Kya is abandoned once again, she becomes drawn to Chase who may or may not actually care about Kya.

While Kya is isolated from society physically by living in the marsh, her appearance remains neat throughout the film as she matures, except for a few bits of dirt strewn across her face during her childhood. 

Daisy Edgar-Jones plays a beautiful young woman, making her detachment from society seem unrealistic as she is not feral and unhygienic as described by the townspeople.

During the trial, Kya is defended by retired attorney Tom Milton (played by David Strathairn) and his Atticus Finch-like nature carries the second half of the film as he convinces the jury that there is no possible way Catherine Danielle Clark could have killed Chase.

His kind-hearted nature allows the jury to look beyond her notoriety as “the marsh girl”. Her alibi remains strong as she was at a conference with her book publishers.

Kya and Tom Milton in court during the trial.

Image: Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Tom Milton (David Strathairn) in court during the trial.

It is obvious that neither Tate nor Chase are the real true love of Kya’s life though. Her heart remains with the flora and fauna of the marsh up until the moment she peacefully passes away in her boat at the age of 64.

The end credits roll to Taylor Swift’s original song “Carolina”, and leave an eerie aura hanging over Kya’s story.

Majority of the film is highlighted with scenes of the marsh and the wonderful nature that constantly surrounds Kya. The beautiful cinematography carries Kya’s story with nature being her only true escape from the real world.

Audiences are reliant on memories from the book to fill in gaps that have been left out of the film. One of the most important parts of the book is Kya reciting poetry from her favourite writer Amanda Hamilton, who is relatively unknown. As the book unfolds and Kya dies, it is revealed that Amanda Hamilton was actually Kya’s pseudonym and she wrote a poem confessing to Chase’s murder. 

The movie, however, reveals that Kya did in fact kill Chase, when an elderly Tate finds the shell necklace Kya gave to Chase, which was missing when he was found dead. 

While it is understandable that certain scenes had to be left out of the book to create the 2 hour and 5 minute film, some of these crucial scenes would have made it just that extra bit more interesting to watch.

For those that have not read the book, this movie will feel unfinished and as if you’re not being told the full story. These missing details are crucial to understanding the choices made by Kya as she defends herself from the accusations from Barkley Cove residents.

The release of the film has been clouded by accusations that Delia Owens herself was somehow involved in the murder of an alleged poacher in Zambia in 1995. Despite denying any involvement, Delia has cancelled appearances and interviews because of the media coverage surrounding the unsolved murder.

Delia Owens.

Image: Dawn Marie Tucker via Delia Owens' website.

Further speculation has arisen from Owens’ own comments in interviews about the similarities between her own life as a nature lover with Kya’s isolation and immersion in the natural world. Owens believes she is now being judged and ostracised by society because of her role in the murder, similarly to Kya and Chase’s murder.

Ultimately, this is a movie that was created for fans of the book who want to see Kya’s world come to life. If you have read the book, then this movie is definitely for you.

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