The Leisure Seeker


Bending to the tearing power of a disease, or going on a journey through the East Coast of the United States to see wonderful places and create new memories?

This is the question that the eighty-year-old couple Ella and John asked themselves at the beginning of the movie “The Leisure Seeker” released in 2018.

They respond without much hesitation jumping on their old camper towards Florida, leaving heavy thoughts behind.

John, played by Donald Sutherland, has Alzheimer and Ella, played by Helen Mirren, struggles with terminal cancer that she does not like to show the world. Therefore, they obviously have difficult conditions for a long trip, but life is too short even at 80, and Ella wants to have a last terrific adventure together with the love of her life. 

The Italian director, Paolo Virzi’, creates two characters extremely different but they surprisingly work well together. Ella is a charismatic and frank woman whose tongue can be silenced only by her husband’s serenity and calm, he is also an ex-English teacher that never misses the opportunity to quote his favorite author, Hemingway. 

The Hemingway House in Key West is exactly the final destination to which they are directed in order to finally fulfill one of Ella’s husband’s dreams, even if he will probably not remember. 

The story goes on a bittersweet narration of romantic and nostalgic moments and all the small hitches that put the center of attention on John’s illness. 

Those scenes showing his memory loss, however, are never sad or hopeless, there are surely some details that make you reflect but they are also always told in a funny and sarcastic way that they draw a smile with a little tenderness rather than tears. 

A couple of examples are when John wakes up early in the morning, wears his best suit and a tie, and says goodbye to his wife to go to work, or when he is convinced that Ella is cheating on him with a boyfriend of 50 years earlier. 

This episode continues with a hilarious scene of the couple going to this alleged boyfriend’s nursing home to make him confirm that they are not secretly dating anymore.

Their trip, however, brings to light old disagreements and new discoveries as well, and after an entire life spent together, once again, it is time to choose to still love each other. 

I loved this movie. I loved the plot’s simplicity and the characters’ complexity well interpreted by the two actors.

It is a deep comedy that is worth seeing and does not be surprised if after watching the movie you will find yourself contemplating love and desire something like what Ella and John have.