Yes, if you were to jot down a list of things you expect to happen in The Leisure Seeker -- a comic drama in which a married couple facing their last days embark on a Massachusetts-to-Key West Winnebago road trip -- you would almost certainly get a lot right. There are winning vistas, some silliness with a motorcycle, a run-in with the cops. Yes, the couple loses and finds each other, and the journey they're on turns out to be more than merely geographical. But for all its familiarity, this first English-language feature from Italian director Paolo Virzi (Human Capital, Like Crazy) is at times moving in its sincerity, thanks to stellar casting and the director's clear-eyed perspective on aging and dementia, even when the story skirts toward sensationalism.
Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland play the couple, a duo who go together like matching furniture, their moods and habits perfectly shaped by each other's. Mirren's character, Ella, is facing cancer, while Sutherland's, John, is losing his memory and his certainty about who he's speaking to.
She's spent her life listening to him rattle on about Herman Melville and Ernest Hemingway, and she's planned this trip to show him his favorite author's famous home in Key West. She lets him drive -- he's alert behind the wheel -- but she's fully in charge, except in those moments when he wanders off. Sometimes Virzi plays this for comedy, but there's terror in these scenes, a species-level discomfort related to our distaste for convincing scenes of children in danger. The final scenes feature a welcome sexual frankness you probably would not note on that list of what The Leisure Seeker will offer, and the ending -- well, I misted up.