The Leisure Seeker
dir. Paolo Virzì
Paolo Virzì has been delivering solid cinema balancing on the border of commercialism and arthouse for over a dozen years, but so far he has been doing that mainly in Italy. His first production filmed entirely in the United States has two big stars: Brit Dame Helen Mirren (Woman In Gold, Queen) and Canadian Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games, Space Cowboys). That should guarantee the appropriate interest in The Leisure Seeker.
A pair of actors around the age of 70-80 is playing a married couple that decides to play a trick on their adult children Jennifer and Will (Kirsty Mitchell and Christian McKay) and go on an unplanned holiday. The son visits them at home and finds empty rooms and an abandoned garage, which until now has been occupied by a caravan called The Leisure Seeker. Ella and John are heading south towards sunny Florida, but they have no intention of telling their descendants where they are. Gradually, however, it turns out that it will not be an ordinary summer escapade.
Despite the extremely comic assumption, The Leisure Seeker has a much darker mood. John suffers from progressive dementia, does not quite know where he is or what is happening, confuses his wife with his neighbour, does not remember the names of children or how old they are. Every now and then he experiences moments of normality. Fortunately, Virzì does not fall into a downturn, nor does he make his hero a finite fool. Comedy and tragedy exist here side by side. Sutherland plays an intriguing character who can talk about Hemingway in an instant with an embarrassed waitress first, a few minutes later accuses his wife of having an affair and then wets the bed at night. John is like a big child, whose wife must constantly look after but despite the dementing illness, he will always be her beloved husband. Their trip is also a return to the past because they cross the same road they used to travel with their children in the 1970s. During subsequent stops, the couple reviews pictures from those times that refreshes the memory of a man. With time, we start to guess that Ella is also not completely healthy, considering how many tablets she swallows while travelling. Then her goal will become much clearer to the audience.
The Leisure Seeker is a variation on a road cinema, with a journey that is a reckoning with the past and an attempt to dignifiedly leave this world. The bitter-sweet mood of the film, lots of funny situations, lack of falling into sentimentality make the screening more than enjoyable. This movie will also make you very emotional in the right way.
The main pair of actors is excellent, but I would not expect anything else from those experienced professionals and living legends. However, the inclusion of the current political commentary in the film (the action takes place during the presidential campaign, whose later winner turned out to be Trump) seems a bit forced. Not only does it not add anything to the action of the film, but it has been stuck to the narration in a crooked way.
Universal release playing in British cinemas from 20th April