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“Where the crayfish sing”

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Directed by Olivia Newman

Starring Daisy Edgar-Jones, Garret Dillahunt, Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickinson, David Strathairn and Sterling Macer, Jr.

Rated PG-13

2 stars

Delia Owen’s 2018 novel Where the Crawdads Sing spent 157 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list. It has millions of devoted fans – I count myself among them. It should come as no surprise that I was very excited to see the film adaptation, which hits theaters this weekend.

Maybe my expectations were too high, but I was quite disappointed. This film is a pale imitation of the book, dutifully hitting the key plot points but completely missing the spirit of the novel. I imagine fans might enjoy reliving the story, but non-fans will leave the theater wondering what all the fuss was about.

The excitement was about Kya, a young girl who was abandoned by her family and grew up in the middle of the North Carolina swamps. She refuses to go to school and prefers to study nature instead. Daisy Edgar-Jones plays Kya when she’s a little grown, and she enjoys an idyllic but wild existence to the point where two young men show up and gasp at her door (Taylor John Smith and Harris Dickenson).

Both say they love her, but one of them ends up dead, and Kya, the “swamp girl”, is tried for murder.

The film makes a business decision to cast Edgar-Jones in the lead role. The British actress is a rising star, and she’s certainly talented, but she’s also so fair-skinned and has such beautiful, non-frizzy hair that it’s hard to imagine she spent a single day in the wild, let alone her whole Life. You would never look at her and think, oh yeah, that’s a swamp girl.

You would also never in your life look at the two young men and think that they were more than good looking but boring actors straight out of the central casting. They represent the dual attraction of true love and dangerous lust in the novel, but that’s never really expressed in this film. It’s hard to get into the mystery behind the murder unless you’re invested in these unremarkable characters.

The other main character in this story is the North Carolina wilderness, which is quite memorable in this film. Filmed in Louisiana, there are plenty of opportunities to sit back and marvel at the beautiful nature that fills the screen. Kya becomes an acclaimed naturalist in the novels, and thanks to the cinematography and location research, her drive in this film is fully understandable.

Adapting a beloved novel for the big screen is never an easy task. You have to strip down the story and still manage to bring the characters and setting to life. The best film adaptations find a way to balance the action with the incredible experience of reading the book. Pedestrian adaptations like “Where the Crawdads Sing” hit the main plot moments but miss the magic behind the characters.

All of this leaves fans like me very disappointed in the effort.

Film reviews by Sean McBride, ‘The Movie Guy’ are published weekly by Port Arthur Newsmedia and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments by emailing [email protected]

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