Where the crawdads sing

The film's cinematography and camerawork aid in the overall suspenseful feel of the story, writes Gracie Brogowski. 

One of 2018’s most popular books has reached theaters, hitting all emotions and expectations.

“Where the Crawdads Sing” follows the life of a woman named Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones) who lives in “The Marsh” of North Carolina. When she’s abandoned by her own family at a young age, she tries to survive on her own in her family’s shack and live off the land. When a local boy’s found dead in The Marsh 20 years later, the whole town accuses her of first-degree murder.

The movie is based on Delia Owens’ book “Where the Crawdads Sing,” which became a worldwide phenomenon and was placed at No. 1 on the New York Times Bestseller list. It was also named Best Book of The Year by USA Today, Southern Living, Buzzfeed and other news publications.

The film was produced by Reese Witherspoon and her personal production company, Hello Sunshine. “Where the Crawdads Sing” is one of the books on the “Reese’s Book Club” reading list, so it isn’t a surprise that she decided to do a film adaptation of the story. During a featurette interview, she said she wants viewers to get the same feelings and emotions that come with reading the novel, but the film adds a thriller element to enhance the murder mystery aspect.

The casting directors did a good job when it came to choosing an actress to play Kya. In the beginning, Jojo Regina gives a solid performance as young Kya with a combination of innocence, fear and an evolution of independence — just like in the book. Daisy Edgar-Jones does a great delivery of Kya’s lonely yet courageous personality. Viewers can easily notice Kya’s internal trauma through the way Edgar-Jones portrays her. She also gives Kya the persona of an independent woman, bringing in a sense of feminism to the picture. Since she grows up without a family in the middle of The Marsh, she learns to fend for herself even when people doubt her.

The film’s writers and actors also do a great job bringing Kya’s love interests to life. Tate (Taylor John Smith) is her first love interest and is a very caring person when it comes to Kya. From how he treats her from the minute they meet, it’s evident they have a special connection. He teaches her to read, they bond over The Marsh and he’s the first man she truly loves. Smith does a good job of giving the character that caring attitude and even adds a southern vibe with an accent, body language and appearance to the performance. Her second love interest, Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson), is more self-absorbed and less considerate than Tate, and you can see that in Dickinson’s delivery. He also gives Chase a hierarchical attitude by acting like he could control her to bring out more of his condescending personality.

The interesting thing is how the director and producers intensified this film. When reading the book, one only feels the heightened stakes when the writer talks about the murder mystery, but viewers get that feeling of tension throughout the film by the way they portray Kya’s struggles throughout life, as well as some specific camera angles for certain scenes, like when she gets chased by law enforcement officers. The camera work and cinematography also gives viewers similar captivating and heart wrenching emotions and reactions that readers get when reading the book, so it keeps the audience intrigued throughout the picture.

For those who’ve read the book, it’s easy to notice the accuracy of the film compared to the novel. For example, some of the dialogue was actually word for word when comparing it to the book. However, the writers removed some of the book’s elements and substituted them with something else. Some of these changes were disappointing while other moments weren’t too big of a deal. Plus, they changed the chronological order by moving a climactic moment in the book to a different part of the film, which sounds like a bad idea but turns out to work.

Another noticeable thing is the crew actually paid attention to some microscopic size details. For example, the writer in the novel gives a detailed description of a woman’s outfit from head to toe, so the costume designers saw that and brought those details to life accurately. They also reenact some moments parallel to the book. Some were a little off course and almost surprising, but others were exactly identical.

While it’s a great feature film on its own, Taylor Swift makes it better with her original track, “Carolina,” that she wrote and sang specifically for the movie. It has the same sound and tone as her 2020 “folklore” album. The instrumental and vocal rawness adds a haunting feel which connects to the dramatic intensity. Having this tone of subtlety and drama is perfect for this type of film. Gold Derby even stated that she might have a chance at receiving an Oscar for Best Original Song. It’s a great addition and is an example of the power of music.

After selling over 15 million copies worldwide, the literature phenomenon “Where the Crawdads Sing” has now come to life on the silver screen in a unique fashion. While some parts from the book were altered or removed, it didn’t take away the emotion this story brings.

Contact Gracie Brogowski at brogowsx@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter and Instagram @Breeze_Culture.