"Old Goats," directed by Taylor Guterson and starring Britton Crosley, Bob Burkholder and David VanderWal, is a quiet, wise and appealing movie about three older men trying to find their way in a late chapter in life. It's playing at the SIFF Cinema at the Uptown.
Local filmmaker Taylor Guterson’s debut feature, “Old Goats,” is a low-key, homemade pleasure; a quiet, appealing film about a late chapter in life. Shot on Bainbridge Island (though the locale is never specifically named), it’s the story of three retirees. Bob (Bob Burkholder), the oldest of the trio, is the most energetic, bubbling with suggestions for how the others might improve their lives, busily peddling his memoir and keeping an eye out for the ladies. Britt (Britton Crosley), who’s lived on a none-too-tidy boat for decades, is thinking it might be time to change his bachelor ways and meet someone but isn’t sure how to begin. Dave (David VanderWal), the youngest, has only just retired but feels unmoored and distant from his materialistic wife (Gail Shackel).
That’s pretty much it for plot; the story meanders along in a way that feels true to the way these characters live. The guys talk. The guys help Britt get online. (“I thought the Internet was built into the computer,” says a puzzled Britt. “It’s out there, like God’s out there,” he’s told.) The guys talk some more. Britt meets a nice widow (Benita Staadecker). The guys go on a duck hunt. They talk some more. Life goes on, quietly.
This, admittedly, doesn’t sound like truly gripping cinema, and “Old Goats” in its early scenes isn’t immediately compelling: Its production values are commensurate with its ultralow budget, and the pace is loose and slow. But settle into your chair and listen to Bob, Britt and Dave — three local nonactors who improvised their scenes, and who all have a knack for witty dialogue and a genuine ease with the camera. You realize, after a while, that not much is going to happen and that it doesn’t matter: “Old Goats” is not about story, but about character, and about the way life so often is made up of gentle turns, rather than dramatic twists.
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Guterson, decades younger than his cast (and, incidentally, the son of successful Bainbridge Island novelist David Guterson), isn’t yet a polished filmmaker, but he seems to understand a few things about growing older, and there’s a moment late in his film that feels quietly transcendent: You see the guys chatting away, about everything and nothing, at their favorite haunt, and the camera pulls back to see other lived-in faces, other conversations, other lives. We haven’t met these people, but we sense their stories, going on in parallel to Britt’s, Bob’s and Dave’s, making up a community. “Old Goats” feels, endearingly, like a labor of love; a group of friends making a film together, and capturing something of their spirit on screen.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or email@example.com