Review: ‘A Birder’s Guide to Everything’ Starring Kodi Smit McPhee & Ben Kingsley


A movie about four 15-year old high school students searching for an extinct duck just became one of my (so far) favorite movies of the year.

A Birder’s Guide to Everything is a delightfully charming (and sometimes sad) story of David Portnoy (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a young bird watcher. I mean “birder” as they call themselves in the film. We know he’s a hardcore birder seconds into the film when we see him grab a pair of binoculars and looks out his window. He scans past a half-naked woman to fixate on one of the flying creatures.

One morning when he’s biking to school, he thinks he sees something potentially life-changing: a duck that has been extinct for over a hundred years. He quickly snaps a picture and takes it to the YBS, the Young Birders Society, a group of high school friends (Alex Wolff and Michael Chen) who share his love of birding.

They all agree to take the discovery to Dr. Konrad (Ben Kingsley) to see what he thinks. He believes the gang might be onto to something big but the picture is way to blurry. So, they plot to find the duck before it migrates but this time, with a better camera.

David sneaks into the photography lab and nabs a high-powered lens but is caught by Ellen (Katie Chang). The guys tell her of their upcoming adventure and invite her along. She agrees as long as she’s the one to take the picture.

With the backdrop of David’s still painful death of his mother and his dad about to get remarried, the roadtrip is a welcome diversion to real life.

This is the directorial debut of Rob Meyer, who also wrote the screenplay with Luke Matheny, and he’s done a wonderful job of showing real teens dealing with things teens often struggle with; raging hormones, utter shyness, sex, death… and probably the worst thing of all, high school. They argue, fight and seconds later are best friends again.

And he’s assembled a cast of young actors who are just wonderful. McPhee, gangly and awkward, is perfect as a young kid still dealing with the recent death of his mother. His love of birds came from his mom and his drive to be the one to find this extinct duck is all he can do to help preserve her memory, it seems. Wolff, Chen and Chang are equally terrific. And each one of them holds their own in scenes with a brilliant actor like Kingsley.

My favorite line of the film: Timmy (Wolff) has to throw something to one of the group. He draws back and tosses a dud. Everyone looks at him as he yells, “I’m sorry! I’m a birder!”

Director: Rob Meyer

Writers: Rob Meyer & Luke Matheny

Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Kingsley, Katie Chang, Alex Wolff, Michael Chen

Leave a Reply
Harrison Ford on Playing Han Solo Again in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’: “Another day at the office”
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens is that it features the returns of many members of the original cast. The most exciting return is that of Harrison Ford, who has been by far the most successful original cast member since the original Star Wars in 1977. In an […]
Jena Malone on Researching PTSD and Where Her ‘Hunger Games’ Character Started to “Click”
It’s no shocker Jena Malone is one of the most talented actors to glide from child star to full fledged adult talent. Now she’s continuing her stride as one of the stand-out characters in the final The Hunger Games film, Mockingjay – Part 2. One of her first and most talked about scenes in the […]
Matthew McConaughey Reveals How He Came Up With His Catchphrase, ‘Alright, alright, alright!’
"My character, David Wooderson, he has three lines in the entire film. Alright, but one of those lines is what I like to call a launch pad line." - Matthew McConaughey
Jennifer Jason Leigh on ‘The Hateful Eight’, Quentin Tarantino and Playing People in “Extreme Circumstances”
Jennifer Jason Leigh: "I think that's an incredible thing that we can do as actors—to feel empathy toward someone that you may otherwise detest, you know?”
Ian McKellen on Working with Child Actors and How He Transitioned from a Stage Actor to a Screen Actor
"And I think when I decided to become professional, my only aim, really, was to get better as an actor." - Ian McKellen
// BLOCK AD BLOCK SNIPPET Place this code snippet near the footer of your page before the close of the /body tag