“The Leisure Seeker” is a road movie that travels through a couple’s love, passion and dedication for one another. Ella (Helen Mirren) and John (Donald Sutherland) Spencer leave their home in Massachusetts setting a course for the Ernest Hemingway House in Key West, Florida. Their son Will (Christian McKay) arrives at his parents’ home to find it empty. After consulting with neighbor Lillian (Dana Ivey), who says she heard an engine start up early in the morning, Will decides to check the garage where his parents store their ‘75 Winnebago Indian used for past family vacations. Will panics when he finds the garage empty and immediately calls his sister Jane (Janel Moloney) to let her know their parents have vanished along with their RV. Ella and John have started a journey that tests their patience, forces them to cope with reality and reveals things about each other they didn’t know existed.
It quickly becomes apparent that John is suffering from rapid memory loss and Ella needs to take this vacation with her husband to enjoy the few remaining memories he has of their marriage, family and friends. We also find out that Ella has taken this trip to avoid treatment for an illness, but we are unaware of the severity of the situation. The road trip escalates to a more urgent, meaningful level with this information. Ella and John find comfort in their RV park routines. Laying out their rug, setting up their table and chairs as well as hanging their lights for the perfect camping ambiance. Ella surprises John by bringing a bunch of slides depicting their lives together. She drapes a blanket on a tree creating a screen and clicks through slides quizzing John to see if he can name the people in the photos. John struggles with some slides and does better with others, but all around seems to enjoy these bittersweet moments with Ella sipping on some “Canadian” from the RV fridge.
There are struggles along the way as you can imagine. Ella having to constantly remind John that they are not at home and in fact on a road trip. John not being able to control his bladder resulting in an ongoing, and very funny, argument over John wearing briefs instead of boxers. There are memories deep in John’s mind that begin to be unearthed that cause problems too. One memory he can’t seem to get off of his mind is one of Ella’s first boyfriend, a man named Dan Coleman (Dick Gregory). In one of the most hilarious scenes in the movie, Ella is fed up with John bringing Coleman up in conversation and decides to take John to visit him in Daytona at an assisted living facility. John is determined to face off with Dan and even hides a shotgun in his pants for the confrontation. It turns out that Dan is so far gone he doesn’t even remember Ella and just wants to be left alone. The situation is eventually resolved as the couple gets escorted out of the facility while at the same time being asked to become residents from an administrator.
“The Leisure Seeker” is both laugh-out-loud funny and touching to the point of tears. The topics that the movie covers are topics that affect everyone. From growing old and the family dynamics that go with it, to accepting your mortality and leaving this earth gracefully and with dignity. You leave the theater wishing that in the end, you are given a little extra time with the ones you love in your own version of a ‘75 Winnebago Indian headed toward the Florida Keys.