Where The Crawdads Sing is a big screen adaptation of Delia Owens' best-selling, page-turner, mystery novel, helmed by debutant director Olivia Newman. About a young woman who raised herself in the marshes of the deep South - who finds herself a suspect in the murder of a man she was once involved with, the film is part survival story and part court-room drama.
The film is presented with such soulful ensnarement that it's likely to draw you in without much fanfare. The narrative depicts the life of an abandoned young girl Kya Clark (Daisy Edgar-Jones) unkindly referred to as the 'Marsh Girl,' who once lived with her siblings and dysfunctional parents in a small house built on the Carolina marshes. Her survival against the stigma of raising herself all alone in the wild (somewhat similar to Jodie Foster's 'Nell') forms one part of the story while the other concerns with heartbreak, murder and then a courtroom trial. As the trial unfolds, we are treated to a series of flashbacks narrated by Kya as she relates her past to her lawyer, Tom Milton (David Strathairn).
There's a lot packed into the 'just above two hour' runtime but it's done with an inveigling skill - keeping the audience invested right from the first frame itself. The film switches between young Kya (Jojo Regina) and then flashes forward in time to when she is 19 years old, and its done with vivid fluidity that's incrementally ameliorating.
It's a fascinating representation, and without deteriorating into melodrama, draws out a mixture of feelings and emotions that leave you feeling raw and affected. Olivia Newman craft involves character building (currently unfashionable) and generating intensity through picture-perfect visual alchemy to draw the viewer into that specific period and backdrop of a fictional town of Barkley Cove, N.C. towards the end of the 1960s.
The memorable character portrait is well-aided by superb performances by both the actors essaying Kya - Jojo Regina as the little Kya and Daisy Edgar-Jones as the older one. David Strathairn as Tom Milton, the lawyer who fights on her behalf also makes his presence felt.And so do Sterling Macer Jr., Michael Hyatt - who play the kindly shopkeepers who help her and Taylor John Smith as Tate, her first lover and the cause of her heartbreak and disillusionment.
This is a film that manages to get you involved in its mysteries subtly drawing you in as the story progresses. Worth watching for sure!