The Leisure Seeker (3 stars)

The Leisure Seeker

Schmaltzy road trip drama which stays on track thanks to stars Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland

You will require a high tolerance for schmaltz and dodgy American accents if you are to stand any chance of appreciating The Leisure Seeker. The English-language debut of Italian director Paolo Virzì (Human Capital, Like Crazy) turns Michael Zadoorian's 2009 novel into a meandering, tear-stained heart-warmer that just about remains road worthy thanks to the fond chemistry between co-stars Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland.

Mirren may never entirely convince with her Southern-fried accent, but she brings a typical spark and intelligence to her portrayal of chatty, life-loving Ella, a woman who appears to be suffering from some form of cancer. Her husband, retired academic John (Sutherland), has the kind of Alzheimer's that only seems to kick in when required by the plot. Determined that their final days will not be spent in care homes and hospitals, the elderly couple climb aboard their trusty 1970s Winnebago, called 'The Leisure Seeker', and head south from Massachusetts to Florida, intent on visiting Ernest Hemingway's house in Key West.

The road trip winds through the heart of America during the 2016 presidential race, giving the couple ample opportunities to reflect on a divided nation and on the changes they have witnessed in their lifetimes. None of that cuts very deep and Virzì opts for misty-eyed nostalgia and a soundtrack of sentimental favourites, including Bob Dylan, Carole King, and Janis Joplin singing 'Me and Bobby McGee'.

There are no real surprises in The Leisure Seeker as the syrupy journey is punctuated by the sharing of cherished memories, mild reproaches and a series of predictable interruptions – from a burst tyre to a hold-up. Mirren and a dignified Sutherland remain fully committed to the characters and it is the affection we retain for them that makes this modest effort mildly endearing.

General release from Fri 20 Apr.

The Leisure Seeker

  • 3 stars
  • 2017
  • Italy / France
  • 1h 52min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Paolo Virzì
  • Cast: Helen Mirren, Donald Sutherland, Christian McKay
  • UK release: 20 April 2018

Ella (Mirren) is terminally ill, and her husband John (Sutherland), has a form of Alzheimer’s which only kicks in when required by the plot, so they decide to drive their trusty Winnebago to Florida. Meandering, mildly entertaining, tear-stained road trip that just about works thanks to the commitment of Mirren and…

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