Film review: ‘THE LEISURE SEEKER’, by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

There’s an important scene early in The Leisure Seeker in which retired English teacher John (Donald Sutherland) regales a perplexed fast food waitress about the simple poetic beauty of Ernest Hemmingway’s prose. The idea is that poetry can be found in the apparent banality of everyday events. While this middling meditation on ageing doesn’t fully capitalise on the potential of this theme it still, at times, movingly explores how the ravages of age and human frailty – in this case cancer and dementia – try to strip our lives of that poetic beauty.

The film sees John and wife Ella (Helen Mirren) unexpectedly take off in their creaky Winnebago and head for the Florida Keys, with Hemmingway’s Key West home their ultimate destination. What transpires is essentially a road trip film but with a bittersweet taste as John is succumbing to dementia and Ella to cancer. As they head south they reminisce about their younger days, encounter an assortment of friendly and not so friendly characters while trying to cope with devastating effects of their illnesses.

With the film set on the eve of Trump’s 2016 election win and given a major event in the story, there might be a slightly disturbing subtext in this film about the way in which decent human beings respond to the new world order.

The film benefits greatly from its leads with Sutherland delivering his typical mix of goofy good humour and sly wit, this time tinged with sadness. Helen Mirren – sporting an American accent – is the feisty pragmatist to Sutherland’s lofty academic, a role she carries off wonderfully.

The film makes excellent and appropriate use of music with classic rock tunes occasionally triggering John’s lost memories. The Leisure Seeker occasionally slips into awkward senility comedy but for the most part addresses the issues at hand with sensitivity.

In its story of two decent people confronting mortality, The Leisure Seeker takes a familiar road trip movie template and fashions it into a touching romantic drama.

Nick’s rating: ***

Genre: Drama/ romance.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Paolo Virzì.

Release date: 21st June 2018.

Running time: 113 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.



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