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Where The Crawdads Sing Reviews Are In, See What Critics Are Saying About The Adaptation Of The Bestselling Book

Delia Owens took the literary world by storm with her 2018 novel Where the Crawdads Sing, and it was little surprise when the film got picked up to be adapted as a movie. Reese Witherspoon is a producer on the upcoming mystery drama after selecting the book for her Hello Sunshine Book Club, and now audiences are about to see the struggles of Marsh Girl Kya play out on the big screen. Where the Crawdads Sing has screened for critics ahead of its July 22 release, and the reviews are in.

Daisy Edgar-Jones stars as Kya Clark, a girl who is forced to grow up early and learn to survive on her own in the North Carolina marsh after being abandoned by her parents and siblings. Kya finds herself a suspect in a murder when her ex-boyfriend Chace Andrews (Harris Dickinson) turns up dead. 

So how did critics feel about director Olivia Newman’s vision of Delia Owens’ best-selling book? Let’s turn to the reviews, starting with CinemaBlend’s review of Where the Crawdads Sing. Our own Sarah El-Mahmoud rates the film 3 stars out 5, saying the film loses some of the spirit of the beloved book, as Olivia Newman seems to avoid the story’s grittiness in a somewhat glossy adaptation. She argues:

Just because a story is popular and is given a sizable budget to be adapted to the big screen, why should the spirit of the character be made nice and marketable, when the very core of her being is someone who is rough around the edges and cast out by the mainstream?

Hoai-Tran Bui of SlashFilm was similarly underwhelmed with the film, rating it 6 out of 10. This review says the murder mystery is turned into a glossy romance, resulting in a “soapy snooze”:

Despite the sordid stories surrounding its author and despite the sensationalist murder trial which makes up the bulk of its narrative, Where the Crawdads Sing is pretty banal. Its attempts at social commentary comes up short, while its heartstring-tugging is half-assed. The bildungsroman beats are promising before it gives way to the soapy love triangle that feels like a Nicholas Sparks reject. The saving graces are Edgar-Jones and David Straithairn, the latter of whom gives a warm, folksy performance as Kya's lawyer and lone sympathetic ear during the trial that seems like it's all but convicted her for murder based on evidence that is clearly circumstantial.

Lovia Gyarkye of The Hollywood Reporter calls the adaptation a “muddled moral fantasy” whose narrative relies heavily on racial and gender stereotypes. This review says while the Black characters are underdeveloped (a fault of the book as well, the critic argues), Kya is painted as so beautiful and delicate that she comes off as more “manic pixie dream girl than misanthropic protagonist”:

Where the Crawdads Sing is the kind of tedious moral fantasy that fuels America’s misguided idealism. It’s an attempt at a complex tale about rejection, difference and survival. But the film, like the novel it’s based on, skirts the issues — of race, gender and class — that would texture its narrative and strengthen its broad thesis, resulting in a story that says more about how whiteness operates in a society allergic to interdependence than it does about how communities fail young people.

David Ehrlich of IndieWire grades the movie a C+, saying Olivia Newman made Delia Owens’ literary sensation into a summer popcorn flick, as it never dives deeper than surface level. The film adaptation isn’t worthy of same celebration received by the book, but it finds just enough ways to endure, in large part thanks to its star, the review says:

The film version of Where the Crawdads Sing is a lot more fun as a hothouse page-turner than it is as a soulful tale of feminine self-sufficiency. That it’s able to split the difference between Nicholas Sparks and Nell with any measure of believability is a testament to Daisy Edgar-Jones’ careful performance as Kya Clark.

Owen Gleiberman of Variety, meanwhile, finds Where the Crawdads Sing “compelling,” but says Daisy Edgar-Jones’ Kya is quite “poised” and “refined” for a character who learned to survive on her own and is known as a “wild child.” Overall, Where the Crawdads Sing is as dark as it is romantic, he says:

Where the Crawdads Sing is at once a mystery, a romance, a back-to-nature reverie full of gnarled trees and hanging moss, and a parable of women’s power and independence in a world crushed under by masculine will. ... The ending is a genuine jaw-dropper, and while I wouldn’t go near reveling it, I’ll just say that this is a movie about fighting back against male intransigence that has the courage of its outsider spirit.

If you want to see what all the fuss is about, you’ll be able to check out Where the Crawdads Sing when it hits theaters on Friday, July 22. Until then, be sure to check out our 2022 Movie Release Schedule to see what other films will be gracing a theater near you in the near future.

Heidi Venable
Heidi Venable

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.