The Leisure Seeker

(2.5 / 5)

The ageing process is an inevitable aspect of life and has manifested itself in various degrees of success in film. These cinematic depictions of those individuals in the final act of their lives have provided some of the most dramatic and humorous moments in history. Films like On Golden Pond, Driving Miss Daisy and Gran Torino and various directors and actors have shown how this aspect of life can be done gracefully, despite the failings of the human body and mind. The Leisure Seeker is a dramatic comedy based on Michael Zadoorian’s novel that attempts to capture the emotion and comedic nature of the Spencer’s life as they look to have one last adventure in the family’s beloved recreational vehicle. 

John Spencer (Donald Sutherland) had been a celebrated American literature professor who held Ernest Hemingway and his students in the highest regard throughout his career. Since his retirement, his mind that used to be able to quote prose and verse from a multitude of authors has been failing along with the physical health of his faithful wife, Ella (Helen Mirren). On the day that their children were looking to take them both to medical facilities to help the older couple with their ailments, the senior citizens decide to jump in their old recreational vehicle and head to the Florida Keys. 

With John behind the wheel and Ella as navigator, they hope the Leisure Seeker holds together long enough to get them to Hemingway’s former home. On their journey from Boston through the southern United States, the two attempt to remember the past they shared together and the dreams they would not be able to fulfil. While the Spencer children try to find their rebellious and rouge parents, the senior citizens look to squeeze everything they can out of this final season of life. 

This is a portrayal of a bittersweet love story of care and thoughtfulness by Mirren and Sutherland. These masters of the craft embody the long-suffering couple and the deep emotional ties that have kept them together throughout the years. Their performances manage to show the pain and adoration that the years have brought into their life through their marriage and family life. This aspect of the film provides the tears, laughs and heartbreaking moments that can only be shown in years of growing together, but manages to conclude in a travesty. 

Audience members who know how Ernest Hemingway ended his time on this earth should be able to predict the direction of the Spencer’s trip. Every positive and beautiful moment that the veteran actors deliver throughout their unorthodox road trip is dashed against the rocks of the Florida Keys with Ella’s ill-fated decision to decide the ending of their lives. 

Delivering a similar message as Me Before You and Breathe, this pro-suicide ending manages to spoil a compelling story of ageing gracefully. The charming and heartbreaking performances of Mirren and Sutherland manage to be overshadowed by a seemingly merciful end that fails to satisfy their onscreen family. The Leisure Seeker attempts to address the issues of the plight of many elderly citizens of the world, but provides an abhorrent solution to these challenges of life. 

REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film? 

The Leisure Seeker should have been a film about fighting for the rights of the elderly and those suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, but it turns into a bait and switch. It is a tragedy wrapped up in a long-suffering love story. 

God sees all of his creation as a masterpiece, as the psalmist says in Psalm 139, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Also, throughout the trials and travails of this time on earth, he provides hope through the work of his son, Jesus, who came to save us and provide us with access to eternal life. The final message of the Bible and the life of Jesus is to know that anyone can choose to have this hope of eternal life. A life without tears, without Alzheimer’s and without pain in the presence of God. 

Where can you find help?

In Australia: Call Lifeline at 13 11 14 or go to the website: lifeline.org.au

If you want to more about the message of Jesus:

Contact the team at City Bible Forum through sydney@citybibleforum.org or citybibleforum.org/sydney

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Russell Matthews

Russell loves film and enjoys engaging in discussions about the latest cinema offerings and then connecting this with the Gospel. He has worked for City Bible Forum for over 10 years, is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and Entertainment Fuse and has a blog called Russelling Reviews. He moderates events for Reel Dialogue which connect the film industry with the general public.