“…Leisure Seeker is in fact rather good fun, highlighting as it does the myriad ‘laugh or you’ll surely cry’ trials and tribulations brought about by the unrelenting onset of old age.” – Wayward Wolf.
Some bafflingly irrelevant, not-so-subliminal anti-Trump / pro-the wonders of diversity propaganda-aside, The Leisure Seeker is a rather entertaining – if slightly contrived – road movie – with a big heart.
Donald Sutherland portrays John Spencer, a retired English teacher with severe dementia, who, along with his beloved wife, Ella (Helen Mirren), decides to dust-off the old Winnebago Recreational Vehicle, which Ella affectionately refers to as The Leisure Seeker. Together, the couple head off on an impromptu road trip from their home in Massachusetts, right the way down to Ernest Hemingway’s house on Florida’s Key West, much to the despair of their concerned children, Will and Jane.
The trip is littered with incidents ranging from the lightly amusing to the highly improbable as the pair encounter all manner of shenanigans en route to the sunny south. All the while their grown up children fret over their whereabouts and well being, as one surely would considering the elderly couple’s respective precarious states of health.
If you can remain undistracted by the rather formulaic and at times forced narrative, Leisure Seeker is in fact rather good fun, highlighting as it does the myriad ‘laugh or you’ll surely cry’ trials and tribulations brought about by the unrelenting onset of old age. Powerless to halt this relentless march of time they may well be, but for John and Ella nothing ever seems quite so bad when contemplated over a shared bottle of Canadian Club whilst sat on the edge of a beautiful lake, miles from anywhere, at the end of a long day of driving.
Laughs-aside, The Leisure Seeker also offers an all too often painful insight into the debilitating havoc that the onset of dementia can inflict upon those affected by it, both directly and indirectly.
It is clear that John’s deteriorating memory is proving to be increasingly burdensome for Ella, not to mention cruel, both through the fluctuating nature of its manifestation, and with its propensity to lay bare some harsh and unwelcome truths of yesteryear.
All too fleetingly now John is still the effortlessly charming man that Ella married, only to revert in the blink of an eye to the confused incontinent stranger that she has more recently come to know, and for whom she must now care – morning, noon and night.
Undoubtedly it is the highly believable and impressive on-screen chemistry of the film’s leading pair that focuses the mind fully on the The Leisure Seeker‘s numerous plus points, and sufficiently away from its handful of prominent failings.
Though Paolo Virzì‘s film is ultimately a little wistful, it nevertheless casts an optimistic light, choosing to regard John and Ella’s story not as one of unremitting struggle, but of two lives well lived, and in spite of everything, done so without any lasting regrets.