The Campsite Flicks: The Big Year

I haven’t yet reviewed or recommended any movies here on The Campsite, but the other day my sister recommended a movie to me that really touched me in a deep way. I had never heard of The Big Year, but I was up for trying it out even though it was about birding, a sport I previously had about as much interest in as watching paint dry. With a cast of Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black, I expected the movie to be a predictable comedy full of misunderstandings and comedic rivalry. It was, but it was also so much more.

In the movie, three birders set out for a Big Year, a year in which they compete to see the most species of birds. Specifically, two of the birders (Brad and Stu) try to defeat the world record holder (Kenny). Their quests for a Big Year are challenged when each birder’s personal life (marriage, work, family) enters the picture and demands that he fulfill other responsibilities. The questions are basic: How far is each man willing to go to be the best? How supportive are their families willing to be? The film ultimately reveals that each birder is searching for something well beyond the birds themselves.

While it is probably already sounding cliché, the themes and challenges in the movie aren’t too far off from what we outdoor enthusiasts experience all the time. When we’re so passionate about an outdoor sport or just being outdoors, what things in life do we allow to come in the way of our pursuit of those passions? At what point do we sacrifice certain passions in order to fulfill our other responsibilities in life? What happens when a parent gets sick, we decide to have a family or when we run out of money?

The film reminds us of the importance of having friends and family members who support our passions, but also the important of striking a balance so that those passions don’t dominate our lives and rule our relationships.

View the Trailer:


The Big Year also gave me a new appreciation for birding. My most recent experience with this activity was riding the bus to Chitwan National Park in Nepal, an international hot spot for bird-watching (I was going to see elephants and rhinos). Two British bird-watchers were half an hour late getting back on the bus after lunch because they were out looking for birds. I really didn’t get it at the time. But, after watching this movie I can see how birders get enthusiastic, almost obsessive, about seeing certain species. The rarity of some birds, as well as their journeys and migratory patterns really are fascinating.

Beyond the birders, a major character in The Big Year is the landscape, and this was one of my favourite aspects of the film. Shot throughout British Columbia, but taking place throughout North America, the film offers some stunning vistas – the kind that make you want to leap into your TV screen and just be there, out in the fresh air, perhaps even with a pair of binoculars around your neck.

I recommend you give The Big Year a try if you’re looking to watch some pretty scenery, laugh a little and learn something about life. This film is heart-warming and fun in the purest sense. It reminds us that the journey is as important as the goal.