Italian filmmaker Paolo Virzi’s The Leisure Seeker takes a potentially hackneyed storyline on paper and turns it into something wonderfully moving with the help of two seasoned actors at the top of their game.
Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland star as Ella and John, an elderly, married couple from Weymouth, Massachusetts who’ve grown tired of waiting to die at home and make the decision to take their 1975 Winnebago out for a final trip down to Key West, Florida. John is suffering from increasingly problematic dementia, and Ella from a terminal illness. While their adult children fret over their parents’ decision to fly from the nest, John and Ella do their best to enjoy the time they have left together.
The Leisure Seeker sounds like the kind of feel-good premise that would lend itself naturally to jokes about old people being out of touch with reality, but John and Ella are literate, learned people who have a great knowledge of the world around them and the times they’re living in (especially with the Trump-Clinton election showdown serving as a backdrop). This intelligent and insightful storytelling touch allows Mirren and Sutherland (the latter of whom has rarely been better) to craft exceptional performances that lift the film up any time it feels like the narrative is running out of gas.
Also, the ending will surely divide people, but it’s utterly fascinating.
Is The Leisure Seeker essential viewing?
Absolutely. It’s a lot better than it sounds on paper.