Coming of age films arrive in many different shapes and sizes. The most successful ones tend to be those that don’t obviously play-up the traumas of the teenage years. Instead, they filter it into the backdrop of another story entirely. In Rob Meyer’s first feature film, A Birder’s Guide to Everything, he manages to capture the struggles of growing up without it ever feeling forced or disingenuous.
When 15 year old David (Kodi Smit-McPhee) takes a picture of an extinct duck, along with his friends (and fellow geeks and birders) Pete (Michael Chen) and Timmy (Alex Wolff), he is determined to track it down. With a photographer from school Ellen (Katie Chang), after consulting expert Lawrence Konrad (Ben Kingsley), the quintet embark on a road trip of discovery. This is complicated by the fact that Paul’s father (James Le Gros) is getting married again in a couple of days. The teenager is still trying to come to terms with the death of his mother whilst his father has seemingly moved on.
A Birder’s Guide to Everything is a sweet and lovely movie. The young cast are all superb and actually resemble teenagers (which is a rarity in these kind of films). There’s also a lovely performance from Sir Ben Kingsley whose comic portrayal of a respected Ornithologist is guaranteed to make you smile. Indeed, there’s a rich seam of humour running throughout the film, which combined with the subtlety of the drama makes it a highly enjoyable and entertaining watch.
A Birder’s Guide to Everything is released on DVD by Matchbox Films on September 15.