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FILM REVIEWS:

 

GIRLS TO BUY (Poland 2021) ***
Directed by Maria Sadowska

 

The question at the start of the film as a bevy of beautiful girls walk down the airport hallway is how much would a man have to pay you to sleep with him.  Be honest!!!  The possible answers volunteered in the film: a thousand dollars?  five thousand?  a year’s salary?  five year’s?  full tuition?  What if he is handsome?  The answers posed only seem to highlight the fact that being a high class call girl has much to offer.

GIRLS TO BUY has the feel and similar storyline of a single girl lost who comes of age in an adult world as in Paul Verhoeven’s tacky but much loved cult movie SHOWGIRLS.   GIRLS TO BUY also runs over two hours.

But the film is quick to emphasize that the film is based on a true story, derived from court transcripts and police proceedings.  This implies some wrongdoing that is not evident during the first part of the movie.

The film follows Emi (Paulina Galazka) — a young, ambitious girl who dreams about life outside her small town.  When a tempting madam offers her a chance to escape, she doesn't hesitate, abandons her mother and quickly becomes an exclusive escort.  Soon enough she climbs the ranks and starts her own VIP escort service — recruiting Polish celebrities, actors, singers, and models.  However, the luxurious and enticing world eventually shows its dark side when some of the girls find themselves casualties of the underground trade, and the glamorous façade of Emi's world starts to crack.

The story does not contain many likeable characters.  If there is one, it is Emi’s mother who is stern and concerned enough for her daughter to arrive at a beauty contest to bring her home.  When invited to Warsaw by Emi when Emi makes some money, she throws the money given to her face.  Emi’s mother is right and knows what is best while holding on to her own principles.  The other characters like Emi are blinded by money and the draw of the good life, falling into bad behaviour and bad principles.

Interesting too are the two mother characters.  The mothers of Marianna and Emi both want the best for their daughters - one taking the right way and the other the wrong.  But both end up getting their daughter’s disapproval.

GIRLS TO BUY is a woman’s film with a female director and a feminine story.  The men are mostly just sex objects for the women and manipulated by them.

The lifestyle of the rich and wealthy are all captured in the film - the designer clothes, the big parties with catchy anthems and music spun by top DJs.  All the men and ladies are also top specimens of the human race, with beautiful faces and chiseled bodies.

Based on the best-selling novel "Girls from Dubai", GIRLS TO BUY was released in Poland in November 2021, and became the #1 film at the Box Office, grossing over $5.8M. GIRLS TO BUY opens this week on VOD and select theatres in the U.S.  The film is in both Polish and English.

 

GONE IN THE NIGHT (USA 2022) 

Directed by Eli Horowitz

A couple’s love is tested when they meet up with a stranger.  This premise has always served as intriguing fodder time and again in psychological films.  In Curtis Harrington’s excellent 1967 GAMES,  James Caan and Katherine Ross’s love for kinky games is tested when they encounter a stranger, Simone Signoret.  In Paul Schrader’s 1990 THE COMFORT OF STRANGERS, Rupert Everett and Natasha Richardson meet their match, Christopher Walken.  Part of the fun is guessing what is in store for the couple as well as the twist in the story.  The same goes for Eli Horowitz’s psychological thriller GONE IN THE NIGHT.  But once the secret is revealed, the film quickly turns into a horror/slasher type flick, going downhill.  

GONE IN THE NIGHT begins like a psychological thriller,  It is pitch black.  A couple is lost.  They finally get to their ‘bnb’, located, according to the words of the couple, 100 miles from nowhere.  To their surprise their cabin in the woods is not vacant but occupied by a very, very strange couple. “Can we stay here? Max (John Gallagher Jr.) asks, to the surprise of his girlfriend, Kath (Winona Ryder).   Kath does not believe in marriage, which is quite cool, according to Greta (Brianne Tau) , the female of the other couple.

The film works quite well in the first half.  The strange couple is indeed weird.  When asked if they are together, the first response from Greta is:”We are not a couple.”  When they play a ‘relationship’ board game (a theme similar to Harrington’s GAMES), the evening turns so strange that Kath insists on ending the game and going to bed.  Upon waking up, she finds her boyfriend is GONE IN THE NIGHT.

The film turns into an investigative thriller at this point.  Kath finds out in the cabin from Greta that her boyfriend has run away with the other guy,  Al (Owen Teague).  Many questions arise for Kath.  Why did he not just tell her or go away with Greta after the visit?  How did this disappearance occur so suddenly?  Kath carries on her own investigation, leading her to meet the owner of the ‘bnb’ played by Dermot Mulroney.  The film contains a fair amount of flashbacks and the nonlinear storyline reveals a past incident which explains the mystery.  The flashbacks are a bit confusing at first, as they occur without any warning.  The film turns out confusing and a bit of a mess by the last third of the film.

The film benefits from the performance of Winona Ryder who almost carries the film to the end.  If only she was given better material.

GONE IN THE NIGHT was originally entitled THE COW.  Why the film was called THE COW is evident by the end of the movie, but revealing the reason would be a definite spoiler.  This likely is the reason the title of the film had been changed.  The reason will also not be revealed in the review, but is explained near the two thirds end of the film.

GONE IN THE NIGHT opens in theatres July the 15th.

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THE GRAY MAN (USA 2022) ***1/2
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo

 

 

 

THE GRAY MAN is a Netflix original movie that splashes with money, money and more money.  THE GRAY MAN costs $200 million to make, making it Netflix’s most expensive movie to date.  It is directed by the Russo brothers who are responsible for MCU’s CAPTAIN AMERICA films that starred Chris Evans.  The Russos are the second most successful money making directors after Spielberg.  The film also stars two expensive stars Chris Evans as the villain and Ryan Gosling as the hero Six formerly Court Gentry, only so-called because 007 was already taken.  Six is THE GRAY MAN and the film promises to be the first of a series of films.  Like James Bond, the film plays like a sexier Bond film.  Six is the flashier, newer, younger and more attractive agent compared to Bond and the GRAY MAN shows much promise as an action film compared to the overlong and dull NO TIME TO DIE.

THE GRAY MAN is based on a screenplay the Russos co-wrote with Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, based on the 2009 novel of the same name by Mark Greaney.  In the novel, Gentry on a mission across Europe to rescue his handler, Sir Donald Fitzroy, and his family in Normandy, France, from Lloyd, a member of a gigantic French corporation and former CIA officer who wants Gentry terminated in order to shepherd a billion-dollar deal for oil interests in Nigeria.  The story in the film is vastly different.  In it, Court Gentry, aka Sierra Six, accidentally uncovers dark agency secrets, he becomes a primary target and is hunted around the world by psychopathic former colleague Lloyd Hansen (Evans) and international assassins.  Six is so called THE GRAY MAN because he is hired to work as a CIA operative, working in the fray with no file or information available on him.

The ‘around the world’ includes key cities like Hong Kong, Berlin, Bangkok, Singapore , Vienna and Prague.  In the Bond movies, only one or at most a few cities are featured.   The Russos believe in faster, louder and more.  They direct with multiple cuts in every scene, similar to what director Baz Luhrmann practices in MOULIN ROUGE and the recent Elvis.  Even the characters in the film speak in short and fast bursts of dialogue.  There are often more than a dozen cuts or edits every minute.  The camera often takes a wild ride, moving at a speed head on a fast train or going on a swirling aerial shot.  The effect is often dizzy action set pieces that should satisfy action fans.  THE GRAY MAN often feels like and is in fact is another action superhero movie.

Gosling is all pumped up as the new action hero.  As the villain, Chris Evans is partially good, scoring top marks as the character one loves to hate.  Lloyd is also a top torture expert who loves his job like extracting finger nails using a s per of pliers.  He sports an ugly moustache and wears ugly unmatched clothing (that do show off his biceps and triceps) to boot.  Billy Bob Thornton and Alfre Woodard play sacrificial lambs that bring some class to the film, while also serving as sacrificing lams for the story.

The action set-prices are top notch, matching those TOPE GUN: MAVERICK in which most of the action is simulated.  The major casualties appear to be Prague policemen who are sacrificed like ants for the audience.  However, no little girls can be hurt.

The film opens in theatres on July the 15th at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and continues on Netflix the week after.  This one has to be seen on the big screen.

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HALLELUJAH: LEONARD COHEN, A JOURNEY, A SONG (USA 2021) ***

Directed by Dan Geller and Datna Goldfine

HALLELUJAH: LEONARD COHEN, A JOURNEY, A SONG explores the life of singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen – as seen through the lenses of his most famous and renowned hymn “Hallelujah” serving as both a biography and a chart on the rise of popularity of his most famous song. 

Leonard Norman Cohen was a Canadian singer-songwriter, poet and novelist.  He makes interesting doc material as he lived a solid life where his work explored religion, politics, isolation, depression, sexuality, loss, death, and romantic relationships.  Cohen was invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation's highest civilian honour.

The film weaves together three creative strands.  (1) The songwriter and his times. (2) The song’s dramatic journey from record label reject to chart-topping hit.  (3) Moving testimonies from major recording artists for whom “Hallelujah” has become a personal touchstone.

The film documents his career as a poet and novelist during the 1950s and early 1960s, and his music career after 1967. His first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967), was followed by three more albums of folk music. You Want It Darker (2016), the last of which was released three weeks before his death. A posthumous album, Thanks for the Dance, was released in November 2019, his fifteenth and final studio album.

"Hallelujah" is Cohen’s most famous song.  This is one song that would leave many with their hairs standing on edge.  The song was first released on Cohen's studio album Various Positions in 1984, and he sang it during his Europe tour in 1985. The song had limited initial success but found greater popularity through a 1991 cover by John Cale that was featured in the 2001 animated film, SHREK.  On the soundtrack album of the film, the song was performed by Rufus Wainwright. Jeff Buckley was also a great influencer of the song.

The film was approved very early for production by Leonard Cohen just before his 80th birthday in 2014 and death  The film benefits from access to never-before-seen archival materials from the Cohen Trust, including Cohen’s personal notebooks (showing the song’s many different verses he had written over the years) and photographs, journals, performance footage, and extremely rare audio recordings and interviews.  The interviewed claim Cohen to be smart and never let anyone destroy his creative genius.  He never blurred the fact that he was ever so good.  His was also philosophical, especially moving is his take on what courage is.

For those who are fans of Cohen the film contains  an in-exhaustive wealth of information.  Among those interviewed are interviewed are those involved with recording
the song (producer/arranger John Lissauer), singing it with Cohen himself (Sharon Robinson), or covering it on their own (Judy Collins; Brandi Carlile; Rufus Wainwright).  Some served as
Cohen’s emotional and spiritual counselors (Rabbi Mordecai Finley; Nancy Bacal, childhood friend of nearly 80 years; long-time girlfriend Dominique Issermann), and others as intellectual sparring partners (Adrienne Clarkson, music writer Larry “Ratso” Sloman).

The documentary premiered at Venice 2021 and opens in Toronto at the Varsity as well as in other cities across Canada.

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KARMALINK (USA/Cambodia 2021) ***
Directed by Jake Wachtel

 

KARMALINK begins with scenes of rare beauty - one in a temple filled with hundreds of Buddha relics followed by a sun-drenched field of crops in Cambodia.

KARMALINK is a mind-bending tale of reincarnation, artificial consciousness, and the search for enlightenment.

In the near-future  Phnom Penh, the rich and privileged are augmented with nanotech, and new skyscrapers crowd the skyline. In Tralop Bek, a tight-knit community threatened with forced eviction.  The film begins with 13-year-old Leng Heng (Leng Hn Prak) having vivid dreams of his past lives.  He and his friends are convinced they are meant to find a buried Buddhist statue to save their homes, and they seek out help from a street-smart girl in the neighbourhood, Srey Leak (Srey Leak Chhith).  Together they follow clues across town and into the past, uncovering a link with a genius neuroscientist on a quest for digital nirvana termed the enlightenment.  As Leng Heng’s dreams converge on the present, his very sense of identity begins to unravel.  When it becomes clear that the stakes are higher than they imagined, the two friends must decide how far they are willing to go to find their treasure and the truth. 

For a small budget film, the special effects, especially the computer generated scenes are as impressive as any big budget Hollywood film. 

Director Wachtel elicits superior performances from his young actors, particularly Leng Heng Prak and Srey Leak Chhith.  The camera work by Robert Leitzell is fluid and impressive and the production set design by Olga Myasnskova, particularly the red room laboratory aids in the film’s futuristic look.

There are no real human villains in this psychological horror drama.  The boy Leng Heng’s innocence is the issue at stake.  The villains behave the way they do because of the evil effects of technology and the religious belief in past lives.

But KARMALINK is not without its flaws.  Director Wachtel is seen to be trying too hard with his ambitious film covering a lot of material from poverty to the evils of technology to coming-of-age issues to family drama.  Wachtel touches many issues but fails to deal with much depth to solve the issues, resorting to his film turning into a sci-fi horror piece at the end.

Credit however should be given to writer/director Jake Wachtel for his effort in creating a social minority issue themed film.  Most North Americans know very little about Cambodia and its people’s way of living.  KARMALINK educates audiences in this respect despite the film’s over ambitiousness.  The director had moved to Cambodia in 2015 to teach a year-long class in filmmaking to children as a part of the Filmmakers Without Borders initiative.   His first feature KARMALINK and Cambodia’s first sci-fi movie is set in the community where he taught and produced with a majority Cambodian cast and crew, including his former students.   The young actor Len Heng who plays the character with the same name sadly passed away during the film’s post-production.  This film is dedicated to him.

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MLUNGU WAM (Good Madam) (South Africa 2021) 

Directed by Jenna Cato Bass

(Review embargoed toll Monday 11th)

 

Don’t let the fact that 12 writers appear at the end credits discourage one from this quite scary film from South Africa that was filmed entirely in Cape Town in English and Xhosa.  

GOOD MADAM opens with a moving aerial shot of the city, showing both the shanty town and the wealthy hundreds of cars on the streets of the city, contrasting the large gap between the poor and the rich.  The subject of the story involves a very wealthy white rich madam named Diane and her coloured housekeeper, Mavis.  Mavis enjoys the pleasure of living in a huge home while occasionally inviting her relatives to stay, while keeping quiet and following the rules so that madam is unaware.

Following the death of her grandmother — the woman who raised her — Tsidi (Chumisa Cosa) and her daughter are forced to move in with Tsidi’s estranged mother, Mavis (Nosipho Mtebe), who has lived and worked in the wealthy suburbs of Cape Town for most of Tsidi’s life. There, Tsidi finds the sprawling manicured property from her faint childhood memories, owned by Diane (Jennifer Boraine), Mavis’s ailing and mysterious white “Madam.” With the house feeling more eerie than she remembers, and with Mavis more enthralled by Diane than seems right for South Africa’s fabled days of democracy, Tsidi pushes past tangled resentments to try and convince Mavis that she deserves better.  

One of the best features of the film is director Bass’ build up on the events leading to the big revelation at the climax.  Another film that follows this familiar pattern is the famous horror classic ROSEMARY’S BABY by Roman Polanski.  Rosemary, like Tsidi, figures something is just not right and finally comes to the truth and accepts it at the very end.  Things start to get weird, and even more so that Tsidi and the audience never get to see the mysterious white madam in the flesh.  Nothing more should be said of the plot.  Director Bass makes good use of closeups and amplified sounds (brushing of teeth; scrubbing of floor) to enhance the horror.

GOOD MADAM is a solid piece of horror that is ambitious enough to tackle issues like Apartheid, colonial land theft, domestic services and family dysfunction.  

GOOD MADAM premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year and is now available on the horror streaming service, Shudder.

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MRS. HARRIS GOES TO PARIS (UK 2022) ***
Directed by Anthony Fabian

 

 

MRS. HARRIS GOES TO PARIS is based on Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris, a Paul Gallico novel originally published in 1958.  In the United Kingdom, it was published as Flowers for Mrs Harris. It was the first in a series of four books about the adventures of a London cleaning woman.  The film is directed by Anthony Fabian from a screenplay he co-wrote alongside Caroll Cartwright, Keith Thompson and Olivia Hetreed.

The plot revolves around a housecleaner, Ada Harris (Leslie Manville), who is so enchanted by her employer's couture wardrobe that she becomes determined to go to the House of Dior in Paris to purchase an evening gown of her own.  She achieves her goal with the assistance of a French marquis (Lambert Wilson), whom she first meets at the house of Dior during an afternoon showing and who becomes a long-term friend as do a series of other characters revealed to have hidden hearts. The comic tale takes on a final poignant overtone when the dress is loaned to an up-and-coming actress, with disastrous consequences.  Initially devastated, Mrs. Harris reflects that the experiences she had in pursuit of the dress were worth its loss.  But things must end well in this fairy tale and the tacked on happy ending ensures the fact. Even with too many coincidences taking place, who really cares about credibility in this feel-good whimsical tale.  All good fortune must belong to Mrs. Harris for she is an angel, and what would anyone do with her? - as the up-and-coming  actress says in her own words.

Leslie Manville is nothing short of marvellous in her role of Mrs. Harris showing how tricky it can be to act in a comedy.  Manville balances her performance admirably without being too intrusive, especially in the segment where she rallies the Dior workers to fight for their rights in a NORMA RAE moment.   Manville is in almost every scene in the movie and the camera loves her.  “You have the build of a model,” says one of the fitting ladies working on her gown.

The film shows a different and filthy Paris where the rubbish collectors are on strike.  It is not an easy task to show a period in Paris with all the trash on the streets.  One goof is in in the scene where Mrs. Harris has breakfast with a tin of Spam opened with a pull up circular ring on the table.  All the Spam tins use the winds-around key at the time.  But the Dior ceremony with the display of newly designed gowns (with names like Valparasso, Cachotier, Sonnet and the one that catches Mrs. Harris’ eye, Temptation) would surely give the film's costume designer an Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design.

If the whimsical MRS. HARRIS GOES TO PARIS is successful at the box-office, three other books on the English cleaning woman by Gallico have already been written with her going to New York, going to parliament and going to Moscow and these films could be in the making.

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MY DAUGHTER'S KILLER (L’ASSASSIN DE MA FILLE) (France 2022) ***1/2

Directed by Antoine Tassin

 

A father fights for decades to bring his daughter's killer to justice in France and Germany before taking extreme measures.

The doc opens with an emergency call about a man in really bad shape with his head smashed in who says he had been kidnapped from Germany.  The doc then moves back 3 decades when the doc informs through voiceover when a 14-year old girl had been killed.  The audience is posed the question about a father who knows who had killed his daughter.  What would you do?  What would you do for your daughter?

Netflix and otters streaming services have promoted the genre of true crime documentaries.  Just last week saw Netflix;’s debut of another true crime doc, also an excellent compelling watch GIRL IN THE PICTURE.  Both films deal with pedophile sex predators  that have been brought to justice or rather get their comeuppance.  

In MY DAUGHTER”S KILLER, the opening suggests that the daughter’s killer is the one who had his head smashed in and what follows are the incidents that continue.   The film reaches that initial starting point two thirds through.

The investigative thriller takes the audience across France and Germany and through the period of 30 years.  It is hard to believe that this incredible story is true.  The child predator is a wealthy influential well-respected doctor in the city who has used his wealth and practice to drug children in order to rape them.  The truth eventually comes out in what must be one of the most harrowing cases in human history.  Yet this doctor, who is completely evil, vehemently insists on his innocence.  Director Tassin masterfully connects all the pieces of information, footage and interviews  together to create a  compelling mystery worthy of Hitchcock.

MY DAUGHTER'S KILLER (L’ASSASSIN DE MA FILLE) is a French (filmed in French, German and english) compelling drama with a story that would delight Hitchcock fans is a compelling watch from start to end.

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PAWS OF FURY: THE LEGEND OF HANK (USA/China/UK 2022) ****
Directed by Rob Minkoff, Mark Koetsier and Chris Bailey

 

 

PAWS OF FURY: THE LEGEND OF HANK (formerly known as Blazing Samurai) is the new upcoming computer-animated martial arts comedy film directed by Rob Minkoff (STUART LITTLE and THE LION KING) & Mark Koetsier, with additional direction by Chris Bailey.  If the film bares similarities to the Mel Brooks comedy hit BLAZING SADDLES in which a black sheriff (Cleavon Little) is appointed and protects a town against hired bandits, the reason is that Mel Brooks has writing credit together with Ed Stone and Nate Hopper.  

A down-on-his-luck dog, Hank (Michael Cera) , is trained to be a samurai by a cat mentor, Jimbo (Samuel L. Jackson), all while a villainous cat, Ika Chu (Ricky Gervais), wants to destroy their village.

One can hardly say that PAWS OF FURY pays tribute to the Mel Brooks movies if Mel Brooks serves as a co-writer of the film.  Can Brooks be said to be paying homage to his own easier comedies?  The village of cats invaded by bandits is called Kakamucho which, as no genius can guess, means ‘much shit’.  When the new dog sheriff arrives in the town of cats, the person who first sights the new dog sheriff screams “The sheriff is a dog.” with the words dog unheard from the sound of a gong.  In BLAZING SADDLES, the arrival of the black sheriff is announced by the words: “The sheriff is a n…….” the n-word drowned out by the loud sound of the band.  The village in PAWS OF FURY is saved in the same way as the town in BLAZING SADDLES with the creation of a fake one made up of paper mache.  There is also a scene in which a character looking like the French mime Marcel Marceau who had a cameo in Mel Brooks’  SILENT MOVIE tries to run away.   One can tell that a large portion of the humour comes from Brooks - very welcome indeed.

Brooks also does the voice characterization of the visiting Shogun, his voice recognizable immediately.  “There is no business like Shogun business,” he muses,  It is surprising that the cats do not break out in an Irving Berlin musical number.  The villain of the piece is Ricky Gervais who delivers his typical kind of humour, spilling stand-up routine lines as he prances about making his plans to destroy Kakamucho.  He hires a band of mercenaries including tuxedo wearing ninjas, serial killers, pirates and others for the task.  Samuel L. Jackson has a field day voicing the sensei, Jimbo.  Jackson who, in every film has to utter the word ‘mother f***er’ gets his way doing almost the same.  Michale Cera voices the dog hero.  He does well as the heroic new samurai though his voice is not as recognizable, as is Michelle Yeoh’s compared to the others.

Much of the animation is completed in Canada in Vancouver and Toronto.  Some of the animation is nothing short of superb, especially the climatic scene where there are floods of water, water being in the early times of animation almost impossible to animate) almost  destroying the village.  The film cost a modest $45 million to make - a paltry sum (or should I say ‘paw-ltry’ sum) for a typical Hollywood animation project.  PAWS OF FURY is smart, funny and entertaining and should mark its territory as one of the most entertaining animated features this year.

 

  Trailer: 

 

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING (USA 2022) ***1/2

Directed by Olivia Newman

 

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING is a mystery romantic drama set in the marshlands of North Carolina.  It begins with the discovery of a dead body in a swamp in 1969.  The body turns out to be  Chase Andrews and the local marsh girl, Kya Clark is the immediate suspect for murder.  As she is tried in court, the film flashbacks to her story of the events in 1963 that have led to the boy’s death.

Catherine "Kya" Clark is an endlessly resourceful young girl who grows up in a North Carolina marsh. Abandoned by her parents and older siblings in the early 1950s, Kya learns to survive on her own.  She is taught to read and write by her friend Tate Walker and falls for him, but is left behind once again when he goes to college.  Chase Andrews is a quarterback who draws Kya into a tryst with promises of marriage that never materialize. After Kya ends their relationship, Chase attempts to rape her and she narrowly escapes. Then, while she is away, Chase is found dead and Kya is engulfed in a murder trial, with the evidence against her seeming insurmountable.

Newman uses wardrobe for both the story’s benefit and flaws.   Kya is dressed too well for a marsh girl who does not have enough money  Her hair is also groomed close to perfect for someone living in the wild.  In the crucial and climatic court scene, Kya’s lawyer, in defending her is attired in white linen, to symbolize good.  When her brother Jody who is now in the army returns home to pay a return visit to Kya, he is decked in smart army uniform with the sergeant stripes.  Army personnel do not dress in uniform unless on duty as it is uncomfortable to wear uniform, especially in the heat.

The film benefits from the stunning marsh and surrounding cinematography by Polly Morgan.  She paints the marshland as a paradise all decked in lush sunlight with God's beautiful creatures.  Though the film at the start is quick to announce that a marsh is different from a swamp, this marsh does not show any bugs, mosquitoes or other nasty creatures.  Even the mud looks inviting.

The film is totally feminine fare, with women writing the script and directing and with actress Reese Witherspoon serving as one of the film's producers, giving this otherwise 'star' less film some clout.  The book is also based on a book written by a female author with a strong female protagonist who gets even with men.  Except for Kya's lawyer, all the males come across with faults and bouts of evil from kya’s wife beating father to her beau who attempts to rape her.  Being a female strong film is no fault and it is good to see more female films at present.

The ultimate question posed to the audience throughout the film is whether Kya will get the guilty or not-guilty verdict.  The actual solution of the case, of who did it, is of secondary importance.  The film offers two clues, just possible clues, one might add, including one in which Tate and Chase gets into a fight in public.

The film works best when it reflects the darkness of the marsh.  This dark nature of the marsh is reflected in the way human beings behave in the story, as in the part where a female insect would devour its mate.

 WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING suffers from a slow middle section that sinks into romantic melodrama, but thankfully gets out once Kya’s former beau Tate returns home.

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING succeeds as a satisfactory strong female mystery romantic drama set in a fresh and different setting in which the bullied and individual triumphs over her adversaries.

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