A Birder’s Guide to Everything is a quiet, charming and hopeful comedy (with dramatic underpinnings) about loss and self-discovery. Kodi Smit-McPhee is David, an avid birder struggling with his mother’s long illness and death and his father’s impending second marriage.
To deal, he avoids Dad (James Le Gros, always a welcome presence), and goes on a wild duck chase, thinking he’s discovered a long-extinct duck. With him are his two friends (and fellow birders) Timmy (Alex Wolff, supplying comic relief) and Peter (Michael Chen, supplying neurotic comic relief). There’s also Ellen (Katie Chang), a newish girl at school who also happens to be a gifted photographer.
The story isn’t groundbreaking, but co-writer and director Rob Meyer makes it work in a way that feels organic and honest—the birding angle is a plus. Smit-McPhee (you may remember him from The Road or Let Me In) has the toughest role, balancing regular teen angst and heartbreak with humor, and he’s excellent.
A Birder’s Guide to Everything avoids a common movie pitfall—wrapping things up too easily—by making it clear that the journey David and his father are on will take time. The movie never condescends to the young characters, which is a pleasant surprise. Ben Kingsley is hilarious in a supporting role.
A BIRDER’S GUIDE TO EVERYTHING
Directed by Rob Meyer
With Kodi Smit-McPhee, James Le Gros and Katie Chang