Contrary to Where the Crawdads Sing’s harsh criticism, the changes from the novel are successful in making the film entertaining and effective.
although Where the Crawdads Sing‘s movie adaptation differs from Delia Owen’s 2018 novel, the changes from the book help make it an entertaining film. To adapt a book in a way its authors and readers won’t hate, filmmakers condense hundreds of pages into a 120-page script balancing staying faithful to the book and creating a compelling film. The novel adaptations go, Where the Crawdads Sing – an exploration of the coming of age of Kya Clark, a young girl abandoned by her family, living in the North Carolina marshlands – is striking for its alignment with its source material.
After years of solitude, Kya opens up her world to Where the Crawdads Sing characters Tate Walker and Chase Andrews. The latter soon turns up dead, and Kya, or “the Marsh Girl,” is condemned as his murderer by the exclusionary town. However, Where the Crawdads Sing has been unpopular with critics, chastised for its reductionism of the intricate novel. Yet, as shown by Rotten Tomatoes’s audience score, audiences aren’t perceiving this adaptation as a failure and the changes from the novel produce a great, if different, rendering of the story.
Through alterations to the novel – the order of events, Kya, and other characters – the film adjusts, but emboldens, the story and Kya’s character, making for an enrapturing film. Where the Crawdads Sing admittedly falls into the trap of condemning some plot points, depth, and the original tone to remain in the book’s pages. However, the changes also exploit the use of the cinematic medium to deliver a more digestible, compelling version of the story; the film has already become an underrated movie adaptation.
Where the Crawdads Sing’s Changes to the Novel Make for A More Effective Film
The film diverts heavily from the novel’s chronology, changing the central lens through which Kya’s story is explored. The book intermittently interrupts Kya’s life dela with Chase’s murder investigation as two cops gather evidence to put Kya on trial. Conversely, the film uses the court case, the more central, captivating event, as the contemporary foundation that punctuates Kya’s past dela. Exhibiting her murder trial throughout facilitates the perspective shift from the novel, which adopts the third-person omniscient narrator, to placing Kya at the nucleus in first-person. Daisy Edgar-Jones’ Where the Crawdads Sing performance is powerful for it. Accessing Kya’s voice allows the audience to more intensely report to her and makes the delivery of the novel’s best lines even more impactful, such as the metaphor that pain doesn’t disappear it just goes deeper like water into sand.
The beginning of the film is a whirlwind, and, before the audience knows it, Kya is on trial. This creates a sense of helplessness as she’s brought out of her world into the town in double time. This sharpened drama quickly endears Kya to the viewer, constructing a strong juxtaposition with her life dela in the marshlands. To reinforce this juxtaposition, the film glosses over Kya’s traumatic childhood, which receives extensive exposition in the book. In the film, she is not defined by her past her, rather, as envisioned by Where the Crawdads Sing director Olivia Newman, Kya is portrayed as a resilient and independent woman who, at least in the marshland, does things her way. Eventually, she even conquers the world outside her and is again allowed to live in peace in the marsh by winning the trial her way her, refusing to take the stand to plead her innocence to the same townsfolk who shunned her.
However, not all dimensions of the film’s characters survive the adaptation. Kya’s fascination with animal mating patterns, which heavily features in the novel, is barely developed. Though this may sacrifice the book’s stunning use of foreshadowing, it keeps the audience in the dark to produce a more unexpected ending to Where the Crawdads Sing. Unfortunately, Jumpin’, the local shop owner who cares for Kya from afar, also has a diminished role and his experience ele as a Black man in the mid-century South is avoided. Where the Crawdads Sing misses an opportunity to add depth to this character and properly contextualize the film. Despite this, the book changes have mostly borne fruit.
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