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Where the Crawdads Sing Film Adaptation Explores Self-Love and Survival

Where the Crawdads Sing film tells the story of a marsh girl (Kya Clarke) and her laudable resilience, reminiscent of Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Based on Delia Owens's debut novel, which gained massive attention for its authentic take on a woman’s sacred relationship with nature,



The film deals with a legion of ruminating elements stretching from male-egoistic dispositions to courtroom drama, each juxtaposed to retell the vigour of an independent woman in solitude.

Where the Crawdads Sing is visually therapeutic

Written for the screen by Lucy Alibar, the film was conceived as a visually envisaged folklore based on the solitude of a lost soul adopted by the wilderness yet encumbered by prejudice incurred from individuality.

It is deeply vicarious in terms of women’s empowerment and less pragmatic in taking a stand unilaterally.

However, the story of Kya gives the impression of nature commemorating its memories about Kya to the audience as a lullaby. It’s visually therapeutic (all praise to cinematographer Polly Morgan) and morally elevating.

It tells the simple story of a woman called Kya, an aloof — purportedly ostracized by society — who relishes her life in the solace of nature. Her character shares congenial interests with a fictionally fabricated J.D. Salinger smitten by the intricate wilderness of North Carolina.

The atmospheric tone of the film aptly captures the unsociable penchant of its protagonist – just like J.D. Salinger, who is famously reclusive. But it is not simply confined to being a reverie of nature.

Prejudice against independent women is explored in Where the Crawdads Sing 

Where the Crawdads Sing talks about the most perpetually important thing in the world, i.e., societal prejudice against independent women, nihilistic attributions of men around her, and more importantly, concentrates on what it takes to lead a life on your own when you are a woman with no male looming over.

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Where the Crawdads Sing is a visually rich and unambivalent adaptation that is compact with lush meadows, a vulnerable protagonist fraught with a multitude of emotions, a quaint shack, murky swamps infested with amphibians basking on the dry sands, and fluttering creatures of the earth reflecting the vivacity of its central character — all incoherently reinforcing each other’s deprivation of something veritably fulfilling.

But entrenched deeply in its core is the didactic exploration of self-love.

The film is told, metaphorically, in chapters, which are not necessarily segregated by superimposed chyrons but by each time a character with whom Kya is in love abandons her.

Kya’s father is a habitual abuser and misogynist. This is established very brutally in the first act, forcing Kya’s mother to renounce him.

Kya is left by her mother, and siblings, later by her abusive father, followed by a generously oblivious Tate (her first love); a chauvinist pig named Chase Anderson; and her town people, all in the same chronological order.

Somewhere, while bidding adieu to everyone she thought was hers, made Kya a catalyst to further deprivations life has to offer. The chapters of her first love feature a generous suburb boy, Tate, who wades into her life and reinvigorates the need for love in Kya, only to abandon her.

Following that, as she grows more self-reliant, an ill-intentioned Chase Andrews (the chauvinist pig) manipulates her need for love and gains physical and mental leverage.

These intermittent exploitations of Kya’s love help her build a more self-assuring shield and harden her knuckles to fight for the things she deserves.

Each time love abandons, resilience embraces her

Each time love abandons Kya, resilience embraces her; making her stronger than yesterday and impervious to pain. This masterful introspection of love in the film is what makes Where the Crawdads Sing a testament to self-love and individuality.

The uniqueness of Where the Crawdads Sing is that it treads away from over-glorifying a female’s individuality exacerbated by societal prejudice yet manages to honour the character’s unwavering spirit that unconventionally grows stronger from enduring pain, indignation, and grief.

The screenplay sets out to make the audience sympathize with Kya initially, but renders enough void to harbour a benefit of the doubt, which culminates in the climax.

Somewhere the film tends to be sloppier in exemplifying the valiance of Kya, which the book aced, but Olivia Newman (the director) makes sure to put her protagonist in impulsive situations to squeeze out the ethos augmented by loquacious emotions.

Every time a character takes advantage of Kya’s innate innocence and calls for love, she evolves manifold. She stands as empirical evidence of ‘wonder’ in wonder woman because she never blamed herself for being who she is.

Kya is translucent, adept at throttling outward motorboat, inquisitive at heart, soft as a feather which she loves to collect as souvenirs and explore, extremely reclusive and stagnant at heart; her mother abandoned her when she was just a child bearing the unexplained rage of her father, but then she made peace with it while her siblings followed the same abandon path.

Nothing could break Kya’s spirit but love. Even then, she perpetuates to look the pain in the eye and say, “I am not going to succumb.”

Because that’s what her life is all about. There is a dialogue in the film uttered by Kya that goes, “There is one thing I learnt from Pa! These men, they have to have the last punch. I am not going to give them”, which perfectly encapsulates the spirit of its protagonist.

Kya the marsh girl is a fighter

Fighting fears unabashedly is what Kya taught herself. Had she not, she would have become another lost soul swaying under the amber sun’s rays and the murky swamps ebbing from exposure.

Besides all the dreamy directorial traits, Kya is territorial and viciously hostile to circumstances that could snatch away her life and art. Her destitute appearance incurred from living in the wilderness is a red-herring to her strong personality and bears no injustice.

Like the petals of a lotus protecting its Cipla Kya is besieged by cavernous swamps, wetlands, a sprawling sea, and the fauna of inexplicable magnanimity. She’s institutionalized by choice and reclusive at heart.

Kya’s non-materialistic existence, coupled with her unique perspective on insular things, accompanies her amidst the deep marshes of North Carolina. Unlike Nicholas Sparks’ trademark romdramas, which the film ostensibly appears to be, there is no magical effect of love on the character.

Just like grief and abandonment, love wanes as the film perpetuates an underwhelming, insipid plot twist. But the titular’s utmost gratitude towards nature soars anew.

Kya embodies the feral backwoods ragamuffin traits similitude to Amy Dunne from Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl with less glimmer of cynicism and a tad bit less boldness accompanied by the power of individuality. Which also happens to be a Reese Witherspoon production stemming from her infamous book club.

This film is a titillation of what would Amy Dunne do if placed amidst the bounded wild regions filled with male intransigence.

Kya is a beautiful abomination of empowerment, entitlement and vanity. The things that tried to kill her (love), only made her stronger.

The film talks about male hedonistic behaviour, prejudice, victimization, sexism, derision towards eccentricity, prejudice, characters’ spirituality, and an artistically gifted woman’s (Kya) relationship with nature.

Everything is dusted, donned, and obliterated by its protagonist in a prey-predator fashion. As an audience, we tend to sympathize with the film’s interpretation of wild Kya, who is on an ambitious mission to impart her truth to a world/people that despise her true self.

Daisy Edgar Jones is a wonderful choice for Kya.

The sensational actress Daisy Edgar Jones’s (Normal People and Fresh) portrayal of Kya is of thespian-equivalent grade; she walks, talks, stutters, retorts, and emanates the tingly mystery of wilderness worth applauding.

Hers is a story that needs to be witnessed for its inner strength, dotted with the Joneses’ inimitable performance. Over the course of the film, Kya metamorphoses from seeking love in the world to finding love within.

Also in nature, in her art, and in people who love themselves for who they are.

Image source: IMDB, Wikipedia, Goodreads, edited on CanvaPro

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About the Author

Balaganesh Kothapalli

Bala is an Indian writer, co-author, philosophist and content writer with numerous publications across international platforms. He shares a ravenous passion for cinema, art, anthropology, philosophy, and satire. He finds solace in introspective allegories read more...

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