Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

A beautiful movie with important societal commentary

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Sony Pictures Digital Production INC.

SONY PICTURES: characters Kya and Tate exist in nature

Tabitha Irvin, Opinion Editor

It was late summer when I ventured to the Tivoli theater, a friend alongside me and a ten-dollar bill loose in my pocket. That summer night was the kind that clings to you, sticky and dense and creaking with crickets. As the movie began, however, nature only increased in vibrance and brilliance – a brilliance defined by its simultaneous beauty and ominous chill. 

A combination of The Tivoli’s domed, mosaic ceiling and the strangely small attendance made the theater feel more spacious than ever. My family, meanwhile, watched “Top Gun: Maverick” in the confines of a crowded, popcorn-filled room. They had urged me to accompany them the day before, reading stellar reviews and citing its 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Tempted, I considered abandoning “Where the Crawdads Sing.” It was, after all, a movie with subpar reviews and almost no attention given by my peers. And yet, I am beyond glad to have seen the movie.

“Where the Crawdads Sing” is defined by nature. Throughout the movie, it is nature that persists as a theme, a cinematographic statement, and a catalyst for the main character. It tells the story of Kya (actress name), a secluded young woman that the locals call “Marsh Girl.” In countless flashbacks, we learn of her journey as a child abandoned by her family, forced to survive in the wild marshlands of North Carolina.

When a gruesome death takes the sleepy town by surprise, it is Kya who endures the blame and is forced to stand trial. On the surface, “Where the Crawdads Sing” is a murder mystery. Boxing the film into a genre, however, neglects what is truly remarkable about the film and hides its deeper, more somber messages.

Prior to the film’s climax, Kya meets and falls in love with two different men who seem shockingly similar in terms of stature, look, and character. The first, Tate Walker (Taylor John Smith), is kind and empathic – a bright ray amidst Kya’s gloomy life. Her second lover, Chase (name of actor), however, gave me chills the second he appeared on-screen. There was nothing inherently wrong or unkind about him, at first. My apprehension towards Chase seemed like nothing more than a simple intuition – one that transcended the movie screen. 

As the movie progressed, the tension between Chase and Kya grew, simultaneously uncomfortable yet artful. Chase slowly and subtly revealed his true nature, a purposeful direction that made their relationship that much more painful to the audience. The inevitable sexual assault scene was horrific but critical; in today’s age of #Metoo, more and more sexual assault and harassment victims are coming forward with their stories. 

While there was no justice for sexual assault and domestic violence victims during the 1950s, the time period of “Where the Crawdads Sing,” Kya’s unwavering independence and fierce convictions demonstrate that bravery can and will persist, regardless of the circumstances. 

The feminist undertones in the film were never loud or overpowering; at its core, “Where the Crawdads Sing” is a movie about nature, both human and in the world around us. Beautifully crafted camera work captures the wild Carolina marshlands as Kya’s own nature flourishes. I only hope that the film flourishes too.