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Parents' Guide to

Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

YA dramedy about anxiety has language, innuendo, drinking.

Movie R 2021 109 minutes
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Is It Any Good?

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Kids say (1 ):

This quirky adaptation of Evan Roskos' YA novel benefits from charming performances and positive messages about the importance of mental health. Zumann's earnest portrayal of a somewhat unreliable protagonist helps audiences feel invested in his story. Those familiar with young adult books will recognize key elements of the plot and characterization: teens with idiosyncracies (James' love of poetry, a classmate who acts like he's a British aristocrat, aspiring hipsters with elaborate facial hair) and all-consuming emotions that signal stories about anxious, constantly self-reflecting, emotionally unbalanced high school students. And that doesn't even cover the main conceit -- that James receives imaginary psychological care from a pigeon he calls Dr. Bird. (With his empathetic gravitas, Wilkinson is an outstanding pick for the voice work.)

Zumann and Russell are impressive young actors, and Dr. Bird offers an example of how they possess a notable range even as they continue to play teen characters. They don't quite have an electric romantic chemistry -- for that, watch Russell and another Lucas (Hedges) in Waves or Zumann and AmyBeth McNulty in Anne with an E -- but their onscreen relationship is sweetly developed. That said, this isn't a YA movie that centers romance, and there's a more realistic approach to the young couple than is evident in other teen-targeted movies. This is James' story, and he captures his issues best when he replies to the notion of "mind over matter" with the question of "what if your mind is what's the matter?" Anyone craving more page-to-screen YA movies will find this is a decent addition to the subgenre of stories about misfit, misunderstood teens struggling with mental illness while experiencing first love.

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