Italy / 112’
cast Helen Mirren, Donald Sutherland
from the novel The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian
screenplay Stephen Amidon, Francesca Archibugi, Francesco Piccolo, Paolo Virzì
cinematographer Luca Bigazzi
editor Jacopo Quadri
production designer Richard A. Wright
costume designer Massimo Cantini Parrini
music Carlo Virzì
sound Matthew Nicolay
special effects David Fletcher
Paolo Virzì - The Leisure Seeker
Italy / 112’
The Leisure Seeker is the nickname of the old RV used by Ella and John Spencer to take vacations with their children in the 1970s. On a summer morning, desperate to escape a destiny of medical care that would have kept them apart forever, the couple astonish their meddling adult children by hopping on board that dated vehicle and dashing down Old Route 1 towards Key West for a new adventure. John is muddle-headed and forgetful but strong, Ella is feeble and fragile but still very lucid. Together, they barely make up a whole person. Their trip through an America they no longer recognize—mixing hilarious moments with others of pure terror—is their chance to retrace a married life nourished by passion and devotion, but also by secret obsessions that abruptly resurface and cause surprising revelations right up to the very end.
I never expected that one day I would direct a film set entirely in another country. So far, I’ve always declined the American projects I’ve been offered to direct. But I was convinced to at least try to write a screenplay and I made a promise to the producers: if Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland agreed to play Ella and John, I would make the film. It was a way of playing it safe with big talk. But fate knocked me sideways: unpredictably, Mirren and Sutherland said yes. A few weeks later, I was packing my bags to cross the ocean; I couldn’t deprive myself of sharing an experience like that with such a pair of amazing and legendary actors. But I had no intention of becoming an “American director”; I feel like a son of Italian cinema, although these days, the global sharing of stories and visions has made territorial boundaries fleeting and obsolete. Even on the East Coast, I tried not to give up the habits of a director born in Italy (actually in Livorno), using the ingredients that I always cherish: truth, humanity, irony, the mixture of comedy and tragedy, comic misadventures and moments of pure joy. It seems to me that the outcome is a road movie about the freedom to choose every moment of your life, told with the simplicity of a song. A funny and sad ballad, a bit unreasonable and crazy, but vital and happy.