Every time a bestselling novel is adapted for the big screen, bookworms and movie buffs rejoice, and the anticipation begins. Will the beloved characters look the way we imagined? Will a TV show or film touch us the way the words on the page did? And the adaptation of Delia Owens’ smash novel Where The Crawdads Sing is no exception.
Hollywood royalty Reese Witherspoon‘s production company has brought Where the Crawdads Sing to life, telling the story of Kya, who was born and raised in the marshes of 1960s North Carolina, left to her own devices at a very young age when her mother, siblings and abusive father all abandon her – leaving only the marsh to raise her. Witherspoon championed Owens’ novel from the beginning, adding it to her book club reading list a month after release.
To add to the hype, Normal People star Daisy Edgar-Jones plays protagonist Kya, whose quest for survival and a quiet life on the marsh is disrupted by discrimination and rejection from local townspeople, a relationship with childhood sweetheart Tate (played by Cruel Intentions reboot alumni Taylor John Smith) and an accusation that she murdered a man she once knew, Chase Andrews (played by Harris Dickinson).
It’s a story of isolation, fortitude, romance – and above all, a love letter to nature.
Daisy brings Kya to the screen with the captivating vulnerability that all Sally Rooney fans knew she would, after her legendary performance as fragile yet sensitive Marianne in the TV adaptation Normal People. The physicality Daisy brings to this role is near flawless – she exudes the “outsider” nature of her character in the way she carries herself, perfectly embodying her “Marsh Girl” persona with lithe sprints through the trees and an almost gazelle-like grace.
Director Olivia Newman was moved to tears over Daisy’s initial audition over Zoom due to the actor’s ability to bring these physical and emotional attributes to the role: “She’s able to really find the truth in all of [the] different shades of Kya,” Olivia told IndieWire.
Newman and screenwriter Lucy Alibar were discerning with their adaptation, keeping the runtime at 1 hour 40 minutes, keeping the pace quick and compelling. Identical to the book, the film opens with the discovery of Chase’s body but moves much quicker into the events of Kya’s murder trial. Our heroine’s fate hangs in the balance while her story – from her childhood to what led her to the courtroom – unfolds.
11-year old Jojo Regina is wonderful as Little Kya, beautifully shouldering a large amount of the film’s foundation – Kya’s childhood trauma. Crawdads was filmed in the marshes of Louisiana in the US, staying true to the book’s roots instead of using green screens, and it is all the better for it. The marsh itself is a character in the novel – a “mother” to Kya – and acts as a beautiful one in the adaptation.