When a feature’s title is the name of one of its actors, not his character’s name, you know the project is about more than its script. Taylor Guterson, son of novelist David Guterson, scored a hit at SIFF ’11 with the likable Old Goats, starring three geezers from Bainbridge Island whom he’d roped into making their acting debuts. Burkholder is essentially the sequel, which reconvenes its principal cast—mortality tugging ever more insistently at their sleeves. Pushing 90, Teddy (Bob Burkholder) is the long-time tenant and de facto BFF of Barry (Britt Crossley), long-divorced and equally indignant about enforced bachelorhood. Teddy’s libido is more intact, even as his wits are declining. “I should do things while I still can,” he declares—chiefly photography and courting widows, neither with much success.
Also returning from Old Goats is David Vanderwal (the best actor of the three), playing an inept and equally lonely New Age vision-quest leader who takes our main duo on a forest debacle. That this excursion comes at the movie’s midpoint hints at its gentle pacing; very, very little happens in Burkholder apart from discussion about, and evidence of, our inevitable decline. The film becomes almost a documentary about the perilous making of a movie. You sense the pressures weighing upon the young director of a fragile cast, the pathos of an actor portraying his character’s—and his own—future mental decline. Each scene could be a final scene for its stars. Burkholder never becomes lachrymose about the yawning grave, and it doesn’t force any profundity upon these three men shuffling against the clock. “Let’s make each day count,” says Barry. Even if that means only a photo excursion to Cle Elum, the wheels of Teddy’s walker etched into the warm snow, it’s better than the easy chair—or the coffin. Opens Fri., Aug. 8 at SIFF Cinema Uptown. Not rated. 81 minutes.