Fans of Seattle-area writer-director Taylor Guterson’s first feature, “Old Goats,” might approach his second film, “Burkholder,” with a sense of déjà vu.
Indeed, as some filmmakers do, Guterson chose to work again with the same principal cast from his earlier movie: in this case, three nonprofessional actors, all local seniors, from “Old Goats.”
But there the significant similarities between the two films end.
“Old Goats” was the darkly comic story of three Bainbridge Island men transitioning less than gracefully into their later years. Finding his inexperienced actors — Bob Burkholder, Britton Crosley and Dave VanderWal — to be wonderfully creative with improvised dialogue, Guterson’s feature debut had wit, spontaneity and spark.
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Those qualities are all present in “Burkholder,” too, but this time the story is a tougher sell. The late Burkholder plays the almost-90-year-old Teddy, slipping into dementia and growing increasingly frail. With no family to care for him, Teddy’s landlord and friend, Barry (Crosley), reluctantly becomes his advocate even as he tries to move Teddy out. VanderWal has a supporting role as owner of a failing outdoor-adventure company.
While “Burkholder” (Guterson named the film after his actor, who struggled to finish shooting) has its moments of heartbreak and sadness, it is also rich in humor and surprises. The director sometimes engages a free-floating point of view via his camera angles and editing, and there are scenes — such as Teddy talking to himself in a mirror — that are wildly unexpected.
In the end, “Burkholder” is about what we owe each other in loyalty, sacrifice and kindness. This very human film deserves a wide audience.
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org