WFF’s “A Birder’s Guide to Everything” Is Alternately Poignant and Funny (at Mass MoCA, Nov. 1) [Berkshire on Stage]

A ragtag group of amateur birders pursue a rare North American duck in A Birder’s Guide to Everything. Pictured (from left): Katie Chang, Alex Wolff, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Michael Chen.

A ragtag group of amateur birders pursue a rare North American duck in “A Birder’s Guide to Everything.” Pictured (from left): Katie Chang, Alex Wolff, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Michael Chen

Films with coming-of-age themes are a popular genre but A Birder’s Guide to Everything has something great going for it: emotional authenticity. You will have a chance to view it – and party afterwards – as the Williamstown Film Festival (WFF) returns to MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center on Friday (November 1) at 8pm for the New England premiere screening of A Birder’s Guide to Everything. This delightful feature, which was a 2013 Tribeca Film Festival audience favorite, follows 15-year-old birding fanatic David Portnoy (Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Road) and a trio of his friends – Timmy (Alex Wolff), Peter (Michael Chen) and Ellen (Katherine Chang) – on an epic adventure to find a supposedly extinct duck, solidify a place in birding history, and inadvertently, for David, come to terms with the recent loss of his mother.

NPR described A Birder’s Guide to Everything as a “charming and surprisingly moving coming-of-age tale.” Resenting his father’s (James LeGros) impending remarriage, Portnoy and his fellow young birders embark on a road trip to find a Labrador Duck, which has allegedly been extinct for 100 years. In the course of their adventures they encounter famous birder Lawrence Konrad, played by Sir Ben Kingsley, who supplies wry counterpoint to what Ronnie Schieb of Variety describes as the on-point “constant, genial comic undercurrent of teenspeak.” The film director and writer’s light touch results in a film that the Huffington Post celebrates as “refreshingly unencumbered by cynicism.”

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