Dr Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets is available to rent or buy now.
For James (Lucas Jade Zumann), teenage life is a mix of anxiety, depression and hero worship of Walt Whitman; his school life is spent hiding, his home life is full of secrets he doesn’t yet understand, and his personal life is a mix of hormonal desires and faltering confidence. Plus, his older sister has disappeared. James’ last memory of his sister was a family argument where his dad (Jason Isaacs) slapped her angrily. This has, over the years, led James to hold his dad responsible for her disappearance. But his hypothesis depends on finding his sister, so he begins a quest to solve the mystery of her disappearance. However, James’ therapist Dr Bird would much rather see James attempt to move on and accept and love himself than dig up the past. The trouble is, Dr Bird is far from being your average therapist!
READ MORE: THE WAY WAY BACK
Based on the book by Evan Roskos, director Yaniv Raz weaves fantasy, comedy and drama with broader conversations on adolescent mental health. The result is a movie that sits somewhere between Moonrise Kingdom and The Perks of Being a Wallflower as we view the world through James’ inner thoughts, desires and imagination. Here we take sharp detours in style and composition, from a western-inspired showdown between boyfriends to a 1920s cocktail party with ragtime-inspired teen dancing. This mix of styles is pure genius as we inhabit the sprawling mind of our lead character – who sees poetry in everyday occurrences while longing for popularity in a perpetually confusing world. These flights of imagination, creativity and poetry demonstrate James’ inner turmoil as he straddles the void between childhood and adulthood; his worldview a delightful mix of childlike fantasy, movie-inspired drama and art. Here Yaniv Raz perfectly captures the adolescent mind in all its bewildering complexity through the stunning central performance of Lucas Jade Zumann.
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While it may not always manage to balance the complexity of James’ mental health with the fantasy-inspired quest at its heart, Dr Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets is a delightfully creative, bold and different coming-of-age tale. Its stunning cinematography and performances never shy away from the complexities of teenage anxiety and depression while wrapping these in the confusing world of family trauma and connectivity.