Gone Fishing, by Sarah Brinks
I always joke that one of my life goals is to be an old person someday; after seeing Old Goats I mean it more then ever. Old Goats is funny, fascinating, and brave all at once. Blending both reality and fiction, Old Goats, focuses on three senior men playing themselves in fictional situations. Britt, Dave, and Bob represent three different stages of senior life and three different attitudes towards life. Britt is in his seventies and has always been timid and shy. He lives on a small sailboat and is planning a sailing trip to Hawaii. Bob is in his eighties and has more energy then most people a third of his age. Dave is newly retired and not quite sure what to do with his life.
The structure of the film is simple. You see how these three men meet, build a friendship, and cope with their different struggles. What is bold about the film is the blending of reality and fiction. I really have to applaud director/writer Taylor Guterson for the making of the film. Guterson is a self-taught filmmaker who admits that he thought the film might never be seen by anyone. With the exception of one shot in the film where you can see Guterson in a mirror, it is a well-made film. The pacing in particular really works. Guterson allows funny or poignant moments to linger without ever feeling cruel or manipulative. He finds a lot of unintentional humor by holding a shot for a few extra beats.
The moments in the film that work the best are the most organic ones. For example, when Bob gets frustrated (usually with Britt) he’ll just go off naturally on camera and it is very funny and very real. Britts’ struggles with technology feel very authentic; about half way through the film he gets a cell phone and a computer and it is an uphill battle for him. When Bob is helping Britt design his online dating profile he tells them they have to take lots of pictures so the three men have a little photo session on the docks and on Britt’s boat. You can tell Guterson just handed them a camera and let them go to town. The result is a delightful, charming montage of three friends having a genuinely good time. They pose, and tell jokes, and stories.
Another element of the film that I like is the idea that these three men have more life behind them then they do in front of them. As a result there is a lot of looking back. Dave was a successful businessman who was pushed out of his job with an impressive retirement package. He is a wealthy, married, a father, and a good golfer. Bob, on the other hand, led a very nontraditional life. He hunted big game, flew and crashed planes, fought in the war, and slept with many, many women. While Dave may be more successful on the surface you can tell that he envies Bob in a lot of ways that he has had such a full life. With Dave’s practicality and openness combined with Bob’s wild energy, they manage to bring Britt out of his shell and help him embrace life and love more than he has in thirty years.
There are some manufactured moments in the film but they never feel out of place. Guterson navigates that very fine line between narrative and real chaos expertly. He never lets the story suffer for the sake of indulging the three guys. The structure of the opening is a little jarring; it opens with a flash-forward to Britt presenting his boat trip to the Monday night gathering of retired men at a local café. It is the only real time jump but it works overall in the context of the film.
I know this whole review has been a giant love fest but the truth is I really loved this movie. I was impressed by how taken in I was by the three men and how much I enjoyed watching them navigate old age, technology, family, and love. Each of the three men is very different but you see how a friendship works between them. They genuinely make each other better men. I could have watch three hours of them hanging out but the 94 minutes of the film flies by. I can recommend Old Goats to anyone, especially those nearing retirement.