Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland trundle towards the end of the trail in this bittersweet comedy-drama.
Ailing couple Ella and John, determined that their final days will not be spent in care homes and hospitals, climb aboard their trusty 1970s RV and head south from Massachusetts to Florida, intent on visiting Hemingway's house in Key West. Winding through the heart of America during the 2016 presidential race, they reflect on a divided nation and the changes they have witnessed in their lifetimes as they yearn to recapture a passion for being.
Predictably, and probably rightfully so, a sizeable chunk of humour here relies on the couple’s interactions with unfamiliar modernity, but Ella’s stubbornness and John’s fastidiousness also lead to some genuinely laugh out loud moments.
Comedy aside, Sutherland’s ability to radiate dignity even as his character slips further into the fog of Alzheimer’s, is remarkable, while Mirren brilliantly shows Ella wrestling with her heartbreaking transition from spouse to carer. With an admirable level of sensitivity in the writing, director Paolo Virzì just about maintains focus on the humanity of these two imperfect, perfectly warm people. (research Chris Coetsee) It knowingly jerks for tears here and there, and succeeds. But come.