"Love is a central condition of human existence. We need it for survival; we seek it for pleasure; we require it to lend meaning and purpose to ordinary existence. We suffer its loss with grief and often despair."
– Willard Gaylin in Rediscovering Love
Ella (Helen Mirren) and John (Donald Sutherland) have been married for 50 years. He suffers from Alzheimer's, and she is wracked with pain from the cancer. Without telling their grown-up daughter (Janel Moloney) and son (Christian McKay), they take off in their 1975 Winnebago camper for one last adventure together. They are going to travel from Masschusetts to the Hemingway House in Key West, Florida. This is something John, an English professor, has long wanted to do, and Ella has made all the arrangements for campsites along the way. Although both bothered and bewildered by their bodily limitations, they muster plenty of enthusiasm for the journey.
"Every moment of our life is relationship."
-- Charlotte Joko Beck in Everyday Zen: Love and Work
There are some minor adventures — being stopped by a cop, being held up by two robbers, and Ella riding on the back of a motorcycle to catch up with John who has driven off without her. Ella worries the John will wander off and get lost; he is concerned about her being in pain. At night she shows him slides to try to stimulate his memories of their lives together. In one of the most touching scenes Ella falls down and injures her back; John tries to help but plops on top of her. They both are unable to get up for a while.
Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland, as you would expect such accomplished actors to do, pull us into this couple's story and make us care for what might happen to them. There are a few peaceful scenes in The Leisure Seeker when director Paolo Virzie conveys the pleasure they take in mutual kindnesses. The surprise ending reveals just how keen they are about going their own way.