“Where the Crabs Sing”: When poverty and frigidity are romantic

Welcome to the pinkest of women’s fantasies! Here, cicadas buzz, moss creeps on tree trunks, sunsets cast their golden light on the waters of the marshes, and handsome, kind and pumped-up men wait for the “right moment” to have sex for the first time with their girlfriend.

The picture is so poetic, virginal and angelic that not even a grisly murder mystery can crush it. It is as if on a separate cinematic server for all those who believe in chaste love and fairy tale princes.

Add to that the glossy Instagram filters and fake feminism and you have the adaptation of Delia Owens’ novel Where the Crabs Sing.

The book, which became a literary sensation as soon as it was published in 2018, got a film adaptation with a more flat and idiotic plot than all the Nicholas Sparks novels combined.

The story begins in the fall of 1969 in the swamps of fictional Berkeley Bay, North Carolina. A few boys discover a dead body of a man in the mud and seconds later realize that it is Chase Andrews (Harris Dinkiss) – heir to one of the biggest fish in the small town.

The number one suspect in his death is swamp recluse Kaya (Daisy Edgar-Jones), because she had an affair with the deceased, and the locals already consider her a blemish on the landscape, so they won’t suffer if she goes to jail, even and she is innocent.

The only one who can save Kaya’s skin is the lawyer Tom (David Strathern), who believes that she is a victim of public opinion, ready to rewrite the image of Chikatilo to her, because he sees something suspicious in a young woman living alone and prefers the company of crustaceans to that of men.

In reality, though, Kaya wasn’t always alone. She grew up in a Huckleberry Finn-like home – full of mischief, denim overalls and an alcoholic father of color who poisons everyone’s lives – beating them, bullying them and one by one kicking them out of his home until only Kaya remains. In the end, the father couldn’t stand it either and, for no apparent reason, raised the pigeons and left his little daughter to fend for herself.

After this difficult childhood, from which Kaya emerges without a single emotional trauma and retains her authentic innocence, the timeline is abruptly transferred to the girl’s teenage years, when she meets Tate (Taylor John Smith), the boy who teaches her to read, write and kissing in the middle of a tornado of autumn leaves.

Tate is the quintessential male character that empty-headed romantic movies like “Where the Crabs Sing” need – he’s completely out of character. If the girl likes snow geese, he will like snow geese too. If the girl’s hobby is collecting feathers, he will also collect feathers, etc.

Tate’s antithesis in this respect is Chase, the next boy with whom the now more mature Kaya spins a love affair under the noses of the biggest gossipers in Berkeley Bay. He drinks beer, is arrogant, and rushes to take her clothes off, which, according to the rules of romantic movies, means that there is something fundamentally wrong with him.

Photo: Alexandra Films

If this concept sounds like it’s straight out of a Taylor Swift song, it’s because director Olivia Newman and screenwriter Lucy Alibar have invested in scenes that would only be convincing to pubescent girls.

It is demonstrated that the perfect man really exists, and here you understand – the plasticine man who will acclimatize to the needs and fantasies of the woman next to him without complaining. It turns out that you can collect clams and kiss with your boyfriend all day and still claim that you “know him like no one else.”

However, how the two got to know each other on a deep level is never clear, because Kaya only talks about the swamp with both Tate and Chase.

The biggest farce, however, is that the film takes place in the 1950s and 1960s in America, which were not without social and political events reaching the common people, especially in the South, but nevertheless Kaya’s seclusion among the idealistic landscapes of rural areas is the grand problem for the local community.

Her outsider status is also not woven rationally into the story.

Aside from counting her pennies (despite owning her own motorboat and a well-furnished house), Kaya’s character doesn’t have anything out of the ordinary that dramatically sets her apart from the rest. Be it race, family burdens, broken psyche because of the bullying she saw…

Daisy Edgar-Jones’s doe-eyed beauty also doesn’t help in creating a logical distance between her character and the others. So you have to accept that Kaya is just that – the orphan before she became a princess, stoically facing adversity, brilliant and beautiful, innocent all the time, and somewhere between a scapegoat and a superhero.

Photo: Alexandra Films

However, Daisy Edgar-Jones is the lucky one in the film because she plays the character with the greatest range of characteristics. The rest of the characters are divided into categorically good and categorically evil and do not possess more than three distinguishing traits.

The overall impression of Where the Crabs Sing is that Olivia Newman and Lucy Alibar have created a two-hour Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs-type fairy tale in which sex is frowned upon, good and bad things happen as if by magic, and the heroine manages to keep her pure-heartedness despite being trampled on like a carpet.

It’s not hard to see that with the adaptation, the team is trying to evoke the nostalgia of the American South, where poverty is romanticized. But with its denial of racial and social issues and its presentation of systemic violence as a temporary obstacle to great love, Where the Crabs Sing is reminiscent of cheap boulevard novels rather than a worthwhile story worth wasting your time on.

“Where the Crabs Sing” opens in theaters on August 19.


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