TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The Reese Witherspoon executive-produced "Where the Crawdads Sing" plays like a Southern-fried Nicholas Sparks-style tragiromance, but with a much harder edge.
Daisy Edgar-Jones plays Kya, who is left to survive on her own in a North Carolina shack after her family members abandon her. Known as the Marsh Girl, she is an object of fear, gossip and fascination by the local townsfolk. She stands accused of murdering a former lover.
Director Olivia Newman orchestrates a slow-burn mystery, with backstory interspersed with Kya's murder trial.
A typical Sparks-style love triangle develops between Kya and two men who take romantic interest in her: Tate (Taylor John Smith) and Chase (Harris Dickinson). It seems to be a given that the fireworks from the affairs led to the murder, but there are many layers of the story to peel through. Newman's narrative handles the myriad twists and turns masterfully.
There is an overwhelming naturalist tone that emerges, making the marsh a character in its own right. Kya's adoration of the floura, fauna, insects and animals of the region is infectious. Moving along at a leisurely pace, "Where the Crawdads Sing" becomes as comfortable as an old rocking chair, even if you find yourself on the edge of it.
The cast is uniformly strong. It must have been tough for Witherspoon to resist taking a role, but her presence might have been an out-of-place distraction amid the no-name yet capable cast.
While the wrapup may leave some major holes lingering, I appreciated its open-endedness, and felt it respected the audience rather than spoonfeeding a prefabricated solution. This is a film wrapped in seductive mysteries, just like the marsh in which it's set.
RATING: 3 stars out of 4
Viewed Thursday at Harkins Tucson Spectrum.
Phil Villarreal is the senior real-time editor for KGUN 9. He is also a digital producer and host of "Phil on Film" seen weekly on Good Morning Tucson, Phil moved to KGUN after 17 years with the Arizona Daily Star. He is married and has four children. Share your story ideas and important issues with Phil by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.