‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ & ‘Men’ Tell Stories of Survival
Based upon the best-selling novel, Where the Crawdads Sing is part coming-of-age story, part sentimental romance, and part murder mystery, set in the marshes of North Carolina. In the story, Kya Clark’s (Daisy Edgar-Jones) entire family gradually abandons her, and she must survive on her own in order to stay close to the land and the creatures she loves. With the help of Mabel (Michael Hyatt) and Jumpin’ (Sterling Macer Jr.), who run a small store, and her brother’s friend, Tate (Taylor John Smith), Kya can get by, but the community ostracizes her, gossiping about the mysterious “Marsh Girl.” When a prominent young man, Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson) is found dead, Kya stands trial for his murder. Twisted together with the story of what happened to Chase is the story of Kya finding and losing love as she grows into her own woman.
I do not normally go for novels as sentimental as Where the Crawdads Sing, but it came so highly recommended that I had to read it. Although parts of the story were a bit over the top, the writing is at its best when it focuses on Kya’s love of the plants and animals in the marsh. The film adaptation is largely faithful to the book, for better and worse, but I was delighted to see the memorable setting of the book and Kya’s drawings of it brought to life.
As Kya, Daisy Edgar-Jones performs wonderfully, making the Marsh Girl reserved and cautious, but not a shrinking violet. She carries the movie handily, which is fortunate because other performances are not as strong. Casting did a great job of finding a young actor with a punchable face to play Chase, but Harris Dickinson is so immediately unlikable in the role that he does a disservice to the romance. Conversely, as Tate, Taylor John Smith is too sweet. These performances and the moralizing of the screenplay make the movie clearly about Kya overcoming the violence of certain kinds of men, placing men like Tate, Jumpin’, and the lawyer Tom Milton (David Strathairn) in the category of men who she can trust.
Although early reviews were negative, Where the Crawdads Sing is exactly what you would expect it to be, no more or less, and in times like these, that is a comfort even if it is not exactly a great creative achievement. Fans of the bestselling book are sure to enjoy this movie.
In theaters, Where the Crawdads Sing was directed by Olivia Newman and written by Lucy Alibar, based on the novel by Delia Owens. It runs 2 hours 5 minutes and is rated PG-13 for sexual content and some violence, including a sexual assault.
A24’s newest horror movie, Men is somehow less explicitly about the dangers posed by men to women. In the film, Harper (Jessie Buckley) retreats to a country estate after a traumatic experience with her husband, James (Paapa Essiedu). Although the property manager, Geoffrey (Rory Kinnear), strikes her as odd, Harper writes it off as him being very “country” until it is too late.
The setup for Men is taut and haunting, creating room for a sinister commentary on the microaggressions that can make women feel so unsafe when on their own. As Harper, Jessie Buckley brings a steadiness to the role that runs counter to the “scream queen” tropes that a horror movie involving so much stalking typically would involve. The strong first act and her performance, however, are somewhat wasted on a bizarre finale. Writer and director Alex Garland does not pull off some ambitious metaphors about masculinity, and it left me wishing that the film had been a little more Michael Meyers and less elevated horror. Even still, I found myself thinking about it all days later. Men is the kind of surreal nightmare that superfans of the genre will debate for a long time, making it a must-see for horror buffs but not for the more casual audience.
Men is showing at the Ft. Wayne Cinema Center on July 30th and 31st and is also available to purchase through Amazon and Google. It was written and directed by Alex Garland and runs 1 hour 40 minutes. Men is rated R for disturbing and violent content, graphic nudity, grisly images, and language.