But anyone with a cursory knowledge of the source material is well aware that the novel isn’t just a character study of its protagonist Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones), it’s a contemplation of the very specific slice of southern nature she calls home, which she eventually comes to see as a surrogate mother.
Having been abandoned by her own, with the rest of her family quickly following, Kya gets just enough, both from the land and those willing to intervene, so she can survive, then thrive, on her own terms.
How this movie tries to shove Kya into a box that turns her story into a kind of cottagecore fairy tale is the source from which all its sins spring. It’s the most common mistake creators make when they’re telling women’s stories – an inability to see magic unless it’s photogenic, and beauty only when it suits their tastes.
And women are no less guilty of this, which goes a long way toward explaining why a movie written and directed by those with credentials that include First Match and Beasts of the Southern Wild could go so horribly awry.
It’s also why a rundown shack with an abusive patriarch becomes an Instagram-worthy home, overalls are artfully covered with cute, perfectly square patches, a would-be rapist becomes a tortured rich boy, and a mother passes peacefully away from cancer rather than being driven to madness by years of abuse and refusing medication for her leukemia in a slow motion suicide. A tale of a respectable middle-class blonde this is not.
Since Where the Crawdads Sing can’t even put Kya in torn or even stained clothes, it is staggeringly unable to comprehend the psychological consequences of being a social outcast, and how everyday indignities can cut far worse than the jeering crowds surrounding her after she’s accused of murdering the local hunk she was involved with in 1969 North Carolina.