Where the Crawdads Sing adaptation fails to impress critics

23 July 2022

Where the Crawdads Sing, the 2018 debut novel of North Carolina based wildlife scientist Delia Owens, was a hit on Bookstagram, but the recently released film adaptation is not faring quite so well.

Both the major film review aggregation services, Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, score the Olivia Newman directed feature forty-two and thirty-five out of one hundred, respectively. In other words, readers of the book loved the story, but film critics are far from impressed by its big-screen counterpart.

Carlos Aguilar, writing for The Wrap, described the adaptation as bland and mediocre:

Submerged in the muggy waters of the North Carolina marsh — which per the voiceover, is not a swamp — British actress Daisy Edgar-Jones tries to save “Where the Crawdads Sing,” the film adaption of Delia Owens’ best-selling novel, from drowning in its own bland mediocrity.

Rachel LaBonte, film writer for Screen Rant, notes that while the adaptation is largely faithful to the novel, much of the book’s tension fails to transpose to film:

Additionally, in its attempt to bring as many book moments to life as possible, the movie finds itself grappling with a few awkward moments that, while reading fine on the page, don’t exactly translate well to a visual medium.

Meanwhile, Leigh Monson, writing for The A.V. Club, was more positive, lauding Daisy Edgar-Jones’ portrayal of protagonist Kya, the so-called “Marsh Girl”, although she found the pacing of the film at odds with the novel:

The weakest link in the cinematic adaptation is the courtroom procedural that feels crowbarred between bits of Kya’s history. In a novel, chapter breaks can signal a natural demarcation between disparate story beats, but in a two-hour film, the transition between scenes should feel more natural, or at least thematically interconnected. Courtroom scenes pop up without warning, and they only function in parallel to, and never in conjunction with, the flashback scenes that proceed or follow them.

The consensus among critics mirror LaBonte and Monson’s thoughts, the film closely resembles the book, yet doesn’t quite excite in the same way. A case of so close, yet so far, perhaps. It seems there are some novels that are simply best not adapted to film.


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