Review: A Birder's Guide to Everything
With shrinking attention spans and the advent of technology growing exponentially, it is an understatement to say that intelligent, non CGI-d, non-animated films catered to all ages are few and far between these days. Even more rare are films that do not patronize its target younger demographic, but instead fully grasps their myriad daily trials and tribulations. Last year’s such diamond in the rough was ‘The Spectacular Now’, an exquisite book adaptation that delicately balanced a nuanced young love story while tackling issues of addiction and single parent-led family dysfunction. This year, film audiences are gifted with the sure-to-be classic ‘A Birder’s Guide to Everything’. While it has been widely dubbed as a modern day ‘Stand By Me’, its beautiful, yet realistic depiction of early teenage friendships and mourning a loved one establishes this film as a truly unique masterpiece.
The film centers on 15-year-old David Portnoy (Kodi Smit-Mcphee), who, on the day before his father (James LeGros)’s impending nuptials to his recently deceased mother’s former nurse (Daniela Lavender), embarks on a life-altering road-trip with his avid bird-watching (aka birder) friends, hormonal Timmy (Alex Wolff, playing a variation of the Jason Schwartzman persona) and straight laced Peter (Michael Chen). They are joined by confident, yet troubled Ellen (Katie Chang, playing a very different role from ‘The Bling Ring’), who is keen to photograph the thought-to-be extinct Labrador duck, the raison d’être of their trip.
In one of the film’s stunningly understated moments, the reliably brilliant Sir Ben Kingsley (playing a flawed birder mentor of David’s) remarks, “there is nothing like the feeling of discovery”. I hope that audiences young and old discover this rare gem.