In Aurora Borealis, James Burke helms a poignant, cerebral family dramedy that ponders the meaning of life while musing on the question of mortality. It’s the story of Duncan (Joshua Jackson), a seemingly lazy hardcore unemployable who suffers from comparisons to his older brother Jacob (Steven Pasquale), a family man and successful banker. One day, fate intervenes on Duncan’s behalf when he’s called upon to check on his aging grandparents, Ronald (Donald Sutherland) and Ruth (Louise Fletcher), who’ve recently relocated to his hometown of Minneapolis. Duncan loses his unofficial position as black sheep of the family when he’s offered a job as a handyman in his grandparents’ building and finds love with his grandfather’s quirky home assistant, Kate (Juliette Lewis). But just as Duncan discovers a solution to his immediate employment problem, new obstacles rush in to fill the void. Soon, Duncan must confront his grandfather’s rapidly deteriorating Alzheimer’s disease, the truth behind his father’s untimely and mysterious death, and the reasons why he’s unable to get past his own paralyzing fears about the present and the future. Sutherland gives a heartbreaking performance as a septuagenarian consumed by both dementia and self-pity, while Fletcher is a study of intense nuance as his loving, selfless, and never-beleaguered lifelong mate. Features an arresting, eclectic soundtrack, which includes music by Bob Dylan.
James Burke served as executive producer on Thirteen Conversations About One Thing starring Matthew McConaughey, John Turturro, Amy Irving and Alan Arkin, and On Levity starring Billy Bob Thornton, Morgan Freeman, Holly Hunter and Kirsten Dunst, both of which were released by Sony Pictures Classics in 2002 and 2003, respectively. He was also part of the producer team on the Tony® Award-winning Broadway production of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night starring Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Dennehy and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. He directed the short film Borderline, written by John Bishop, which won awards at the Charleston World/Fest and the Houston Film Festival. Burke has also directed for theater, and is a graduate of the Directing Program at the American Film Institute.