“The Leisure Seeker” (2017)
Running Time: 112 minutes
Written by: Paolo Virzì, Francesca Archibugi, Francesco Piccolo and Stephen Amidon
Directed by: Paolo Virzì
Featuring: Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren
Will Spencer: “So you know what happened, when was it, last year? I opened their bedroom door and she was on the bed and he was kneeling in front of her and… I can’t even say it.”
Jane Spencer: “Dad was muff diving? Yodelling in the canyon?”
Will Spencer: “I wanted to vomit.”
Jane Spencer: “Why? I hope it happens to me when I’m their age.”
This new film featuring two true acting legends, Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren is a must see for not only people in their senior years but for people of any age, it illustrates the truth behind getting old, mortality as well as the love one can feel for someone else in their life, in this case a spouse but this is also a metaphor as it can be between anyone. This is a movie about surviving as well as seeing where we all eventually end up towards the final years of life, the acceptance of that as well as the choices that are made in that time of life. These decisions are not only social, but economic as well as political but ultimately they are personal choices that we should all be so lucky to be able to make as far as these two characters. “The Leisure Seeker” also visually sets out issues of old age, the sicknesses that can occur in people, which have changed over the years with people living longer lives in society as well as how the elderly are treated by different sections of society both familial and not. We also see on the road trip that we are part of how society has changed for the better and worse, as well as how the very nature of change affects others, as they grow old, but also how this change can have very little effect on people. Make no mistake about it this is a true drama as well as a very real comedy, of course depending on who the audience is as well their own personal experience will alter which parts are viewed as drama and which are viewed as comedy. There is no doubt that this has been perfectly cast with both Sutherland and Mirren who are playing older than their real ages but as they are both magnificent actors their characters ring true. What could have been a routine movie about a married couple on a road trip becomes more than the sum of its parts by tackling some real truths, it transcends its genre to become a film about the truth of getting old especially with a partner who you cannot imagine a life without, this is a stunning movie in that regard.
“The Leisure Seeker” is co-written and directed by Paolo Virzì an Italian filmmaker making his English language debut with this challenging and inspired adaption of a novel written by Michael Zadoorian. It may seem like an odd choice for an Italian director to adapt a novel that is so American but in fact it is a timeless story as well as the fact that it was a best seller in Virzì’s home country of Italy so has obviously struck a cord with him. Interestingly many of the themes and topics that are covered within this film are ones many of the population internationally will have to face at some point in their lives and to marry a road movie to the journey of life is a novel and interesting one, it is not an accident that the end of the journey in this film is loaded with meaning on a practical, spiritual as well as metaphorical level. The film has not been directed with a heavy hand in fact for a large part of the film there is laughter much like I think both author and director think that life should be filled with, but not discounting the very real drama of life.
The film sees a road movie of sorts where we see a journey take place by John and Ella Spencer in their family Leisure Seeker vintage recreational vehicle, it is one last road trip from Boston to the Hemingway House in the Florida Keys before his Alzheimer’s and her cancer can catch up with them.
For all intents and purposes this is a film about two people as well as their lives together where they have been, ultimately where they going to end up together, it is a love story as well as a comment on the world we live in as well as what remains important to people in the latter part of their lives. In telling this story the producers have harnessed two great actors who have portrayed just about every type of person around, Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland. What is great is that this is one of those times in a movie where playing age appropriate roles is a benefit as both of these actors are in their senior years, they are perfectly cast as well as having incredible chemistry something other larger budgeted movies could learn from, I am thinking specifically about the recent blockbuster “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (2018). Both Mirren and Sutherland inhabit their roles, as you might expect Mirren is looking after Sutherland so it is mostly Sutherland that plays the sympathetic role, which is logical as he suffers from Alzheimer’s within the plot. Because of this, to me, it is Sutherland’s performance that makes this movie, he has to play many different aspects of his character as the symptoms of the disease are varied with people having lucid moments then plunging into quietness or depression, he does a truly great job of getting it just right.
This is very much a road movie where like most stories that are based around this genre the trip is very much the point whereas the destination is just an ending, in this case that ending is a finality of sorts. Of course the ending is one that many may not enjoy but it is realistic and is carried out on the couple’s own terms with no fear and no looking back. The other great aspect of this movie is that it illustrates clearly how time is a constant, it stops for no one no matter who they are, in that everything changes, inherently that means that this couple cannot revisit a place or reminisce as that place is not the same one they knew when they were younger and possibly healthier. We also see that change is inevitable which is clearly illustrated by the interaction with the Trump campaign as well as the visit to the tourist attraction at Hemingway House which both involve the couple who have completely different reactions to their experiences which do not meet expectations. In these two events Sutherland’s Alzheimer’s plays a large part as he is oblivious to the reality around him whereas Mirren has to be the true emotion, that is being disgusted by the Trump supporters as well as being let down and distraught by the tourist trap at Hemingway House. The quicker that a person accepts change is a part of life the happier time will be had by all, the fact the change happens and is happening faster and faster is also something that we all must come to grips with, maybe it would be better if we all had a form of Alzheimer’s to enable us to absorb these facts of life.
As an audience member I appreciated what this film set out to do as well as show how life can be, as well as saying nothing is guaranteed so if you find someone you are able to share a large proportion of your life with then you have won. If you are able to see out your life with that same person as well as remember the times you had together then you are a double winner. For so many people this is not a fact of life, many people do not stay together and whilst this movie does not take any position on that there are bonds that are built up over time, which this movie does illustrate especially in the final scenes.
I enjoyed this movie and it is one that can be enjoyed by the entire family from young to old, it also reminds us of who we are so if that sounds like your kind of movie you should seek this out in cinemas, it is funny, dramatic and sad but it is also a celebration of life as well as love.
“The Leisure Seeker” is out now only in cinemas.