A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Explores importance of nature, self-education, and being a lifelong learner. Depicts the many reasons people need companionship and love. Also looks at the lasting impact of trauma and abandonment and the loneliness of isolation. Themes include empathy and perseverance.
Positive Role Models
Kya is observant, a quick learner, a dedicated naturalist. She's incredibly smart and talented. Tate is generous with his time and knowledge. He's smart and loves the marsh as much as Kya, but he also breaks her heart. Jumpin' and Mabel are selfless and helpful.
Two of Kya's few friends are Jumpin' and his wife, Mabel, the movie's only Black characters of note. They're kind, generous, loving to Kya. Although their involvement in Kya's life is less stereotypical than it was in the book, they can still be considered examples of the "magical Negro" cliché -- i.e., characters of color who exist solely to aid White protagonists. Kya herself is a self-educated "genius" who doesn't attend traditional school.
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Violence & Scariness
Children hear their father beating their mother and siblings. A woman with visible bruises leaves her family. Siblings who are similarly hurt also leave, one by one. A father slaps his young daughter. A dead body is shown a few times. Intimate-partner violence continues in the next generation when Kya's former boyfriend stalks her menacingly and commits sexual assault and attempts to rape her, calling her "his."
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Two love scenes: one quick, the other a bit longer. Both show men's bare chests and a woman's bare shoulders and back. Two different couples are shown flirting, holding hands, kissing. One couple is about to have sex but stop before it happens.
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Insult language: "marsh girl," "White trash," "rat girl," "cooties." "Damn," "damn you," "Christ sakes," "whoring," "goddamn." A Black man is called "boy" by a younger White man.
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Products & Purchases
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
High school- and college-age characters drink beer. Adults drink at a restaurant. Kya's father drinks to excess and acts like he's self-medicating to treat unspecified mental illness.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Where the Crawdads Sing is a romantic mystery/drama based on Delia Owens' bestselling 2018 novel. It's set in the coastal marshes of 1950s-'60s North Carolina, where young Kya is dubbed "Marsh Girl" because she lives in near-complete isolation. As a young adult, Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones), who doesn't trust the nearby townspeople, is accused of murder. Like the book, the film deals with heavy subjects, including child abandonment, domestic abuse, and sexual assault. The language is largely insults and uses of "damn" and "goddamn"; a White man also calls a Black man "boy." Violent scenes involve disturbing acts of intimate-partner abuse, child abuse, and sexual assault. A character is alcohol dependent and has an unspecified mental health condition. Kya experiences two pivotal romantic relationships, both of which include kissing and love scenes. The movie's depiction of two Black characters, while better than the book's, still plays into the "magical Negro" cliché, in which a character of color exists only to help a White main character. Issues related to trauma and isolation are threaded throughout the story, but so are the importance of nature, conservation, and education, giving parents and teens plenty to talk about after watching. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The beauty of the natural setting and the central love story aren't quite enough to save this adaptation from the slippery slope of melodrama, but Edgar-Jones gives a standout performance. The genre-bending page-to-screen drama is like a classic tragic romance set in the American South, with young Kya an almost Dickensian figure. The cruelties that young Kya must endure are nearly unwatchable: Her entire family abandons her, her father slaps her, the other kids taunt her. Later, audiences will cheer as Kya grows into a young woman who observes all the fauna and flora of the marsh with joy and admiration (and as the lovely and selfless Tate takes an interest in tutoring her and clearly falls in love). But Kya's bad luck ultimately continues, and she ends up not with brilliant scientist-in-training Tate but with predatory and deceitful Chase, who's more interested in conquest than true love.
Screenwriter Lucy Alibar's adaptation makes the murder case against Kya the framing device that spawns flashbacks to the romances, tragedies, and family drama. But, unlike the book, the movie version of Where the Crawdads Sing doesn't fully explore each of those aspects of the story. The court proceedings in particular don't explore the details that make the eventual revelations pack an extra punch. What director Olivia Newman does explore is the way that darkness lurks just beneath the lush landscape. For every feather or shell that Kya collects, there's an ugly secret, a foul rumor, a moment of abuse to witness. It's no wonder Kya prefers the marsh to the town, the kindness of Jumpin' and Mabel to the scrutiny of Chase's friends. Kya, like the animals she's observed her whole life, knows when to shrink into herself as a survival mechanism. And while the movie can be overly sentimental, there are some lovely sequences, usually between Edgar-Jones and Smith. It also has notable messages about the importance of nature, love, and treating the disenfranchised with respect and dignity.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.