Terry calls them “the finders.” They call her at all hours. They text. They come by, and sometimes they come by again. They arrive bearing tiny boxes filled with precious, delicate cargo. They ask advice. They don’t always take it. And they so, so badly want their discoveries to live.

In Sally Aitken’s delicate, immensely touching documentary “Every Little Thing,” those finders are regular, everyday people who a) somehow find injured hummingbirds in the Los Angeles area, and b) have the luck of discovering Terry Masear’s nearby hummingbird rescue, where she attends to hundreds of birds each year, hopefully nursing them back to health and releasing them into the world. “Finders” is Terry’s word. Terry is, though she’d likely never say such a thing, something a bit different, a bit harder to admit: a hero.

Aitken doesn’t skimp on incredible, immersive hummingbird footage, all bright colors and fast-flapping wings, quick little tails, shining pinprick eyes. Hummingbirds are so delicate, so feather-light, so special, it’s easy to see why Terry has dedicated her later life to saving them. Terry’s sprawling hillside home is awash in hand-made cages and enclosures, her own army of self-made tools, and years of training, all of which seem hewn out of experience and tough lessons.

For someone who so loves such tiny beings, Terry — an instantly engaging subject, even before we’re watching her hand-feed nectar to a fledgling bird or gently nestling a tiny duo in a hand-woven nest or even, both amusingly and scarily, trying to catch a wayward bird loose in her bathroom — is a bit of an enigma. She’s tender (she’d have to be), but she’s also a tough cookie, and when those various finders descend upon her home, she doesn’t even need to tell us that she’s probably into birds because she’s not so into people.

“I wasn’t big on trust,” Terry tells Aitken, tells us, at one point, but we already know that by now. Inevitably, you will wonder about who exactly Terry is, or at least how she found her way to this work, and Aitken teases out facts from Terry’s life, both wonderful and horrible before the birds came, before Terry herself gets down to the business of laying it out plain. Like so many works of cinematic art in recent years, there’s a story of trauma tucked inside “Every Little Thing,” but Terry (tough cookie!) shows in both her words and actions what that looks like on the other side, what you can turn that into. It’s not so little at all. (Of the birds, Terry explains, “You can’t address a trauma unless you know what it is,” but we all know she’s not just talking about the birds.)

Oh, but the birds. You’ll meet Cactus and Larry Bird and Wasabi and all sorts of other wonderful, charming, injured little birds. (It seems only fair to note that those especially sensitive to seeing injured animals onscreen or even potentially losing a few along the way should approach the film with some caution. But Aitken’s tender approach and Terry’s profound care go a long way, and please don’t consider this a spoiler, rather just a hint, that so, so many birds live in the film.)

Terry’s work is edifying enough, and Aitken also makes the time to provide a wealth of knowledge about hummingbird care and feeding (literally and figuratively), and “Every Little Thing” viewers will surely walk away with plenty of fun facts to share, little bits that will be hard to forget. While some might balk at its somewhat winding narrative, why not simply give yourself over to the experience? It’s loosely arranged through one caring cycle of birds, from intake to release, but “Every Little Thing” works it way toward a deeply satisfying conclusion, a big celebration of tiny things and the special person who has made it all possible.

Grade: B+

“Every Little Thing” premiered at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.

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