The Leisure Seeker is a film directed by Paolo Virzi and stars two titans in the industry, Helen Mirren, and Donald Sutherland.
The story of The Leisure Seeker follows Ella Spencer (Mirren) and John Spencer (Sutherland) as they travel across the country in the titular vehicle, their Leisure Seeker. Ella see’s this as the last adventure both she and John can take before they succumb to their illnesses. Ella is dying of some form of cancer and John is suffering from a serious case of Alzheimer’s.
I always worry when walking into a film based on the genre of the seniors because I find that any actor that is cast in that film is almost immediately dumbed down when they are in the film. For example, the following films, Last Vegas, Going In Style deal with older people in society in my opinion quite poorly and this is an issue for this “genre”. Thankfully The Leisure Seeker barely suffers from that issue, there are no aching bones jokes, there are no “I’m too old for this s**t” moments. The film simply shows that age has weakened these two vibrant individuals and though they may be diminished in mind and body they have not diminished in spirit.
John Spencer is a man losing what he cherishes most, his intellect. There are brief moments in the film where Johns charm and intelligence shine through and when they happen the audience and Ella are enthralled by his presence. Sadly for the rest of the film, John relies on Ella for almost every aspect of his day to day needs and this is heartbreaking to watch.
Ella Spencer is a charming woman from the South and that is what you will immediately notice about her character as Mirren has put on a heavy accent to accentuate her personality. Much like John Ella is losing something that she has always been proud of, her exuberance, her vivacious nature and she’s trying so hard to hold onto it, unfortunately, the cancer may be winning the battle.
What makes the film work is how the two characters are on this journey together running away from their problems and how in a way they are trying to find each other along the way. This is because John can forget about Ella all together at times and Ella can’t cope with John because she doesn’t have the energy so when the moments where the stars align and they are with each other is wonderful. The America Ella and John are travelling through is a beautiful one with cinematographer Luca Bigazzi having the Leisure Seeker travelling across bright, vibrant roads. Then the two enter lush parks where they look back on their lives with a slideshow that offers the audience a glimpse into the life these two have built themselves over their 50-year relationship.
Not everything is leisurely in the film, as The Leisure Seeker has problems with its script and this mainly shows up when the children arrive onscreen to remind Ella and John that they may be doing more harm to themselves than good. Will (Christian McKay) the youngest is simply there as an exposition dump character and he gives some of the more traditional and clichéd lines in the film. The elder daughter Jane (Janel Moloney) fairs better as she has a wonderful scene with her father that brings her to tears (and myself if I’m being honest). There is also the problem with the length of the film clocking in at approximately 1 hour 45 minutes. It’s slightly bloated and overstays its welcome which is unfortunate because some trimming in the third act could have fixed this.
The Leisure Seeker is a fascinating film, the story is reasonable, the script dips in quality but with the incredible chemistry between its double act, the film is an emotional journey that will bring you to tears.