First Hit: This film is, at times, funny, sad, and depressing, and well acted.
Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren are two very strong actors and I’d be hard pressed to find two other actors capable of pulling these characters off as well as they do.
Donald plays John Spencer a former literary professor who loves the writing of Ernest Hemingway. He’s losing his memory but can remember long passages of Hemingway’s writings. He often forgets much of his past life including the names of his grown children. But his wife Ella (Mirren) remembers almost everything, likes to talk to strangers freely but has cancer and it’s taking over her body.
The film opens with son Will (Christian McKay) coming by John and Ella’s house with a cake for John’s birthday. He finds no one home. He calls his sister Jane (Janel Moloney) who is on her way over for the party asking her if she knows where their parents are.
Not discovering anything, they look in a covered storage area next to the house only to find their Winnebago Indian, they call the Leisure Seeker, gone. This thing is old and hasn’t been driven for years.
The audience catches up the John and Ella as they tool down the highway, Ella navigating and John behind the wheel.
Many of the scenes and dialogue while they are in the Leisure Seeker and during their stops, allows the audience to learn about their histories, current foibles, and mostly how they really adore each other.
There are some very funny scenes, like when they visit Ella’s first boyfriend. The ending is apropos in that, they do not want to be a burden to each other or their children.
Sutherland did an excellent job of being lucid in sparse moments. The color of his life were added in these moments showed why he was a good man. Mirren was excellent at putting up with having to be John’s memory as well as keeping herself together. The character liked to talk and would talk with anyone, and she did this extremely well. Her flowing segues were perfect. Moloney was wonderful as the daughter. When John shares his pride of her, her reaction was perfect. McKay was good as the son who was more lost in life and used his parent’s challenges for his martyrdom. Stephen Amidon wrote a smart script as it had a wide range of emotions. Paolo Virzi did a great job of putting enough of these wide-ranging emotions to us.
Overall: Although most critics didn’t give this film much regard, my own experience tells me the writers had some real life experience to draw upon.