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Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

Released 2022. Director: Sophie Hyde

NANCY STOKES IS READY TO HAVE SEX. She’s given a lot of thought about it and she’s planned for the occasion in detail. In the posh hotel room she's booked, there’s even champagne in the mini bar. In a moment Nancy will meet Leo Grande, whose service she has engaged via his website.

Nancy is in her early 60s, a widow who, as she tells Leo, has never felt fulfilled in the bedroom. She’s not expecting miracles from a transaction with a professional but she wants to give herself a chance to feel good about herself.

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a movie about sex, for sure. How it goes about the topic is examining what Nancy associates with sex, namely disappointment, poor self-image, shame, anxiety and all the baggage that denies herself of joy and pleasure.

A few brief scenes of sex and nudity aside, this movie spends almost all its time talking about sex. Nancy is a nervous mess and words just tumble out of her mouth. Leo is a gentleman and a good listener who knows how to put a jittery client at ease, so they do plenty of talking before getting down to business.

The movie is not shy about taking the lids off subject matter that people feel uncomfortable to raise. Female sexuality? Oh no, who would want to talk about that over dinner? Repression, judgement, criticism, fear, insecurity, guilt, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scene for Nancy, whose career as a religious education teacher has no doubt added to the weight she carries.

Except in the last few minutes when a third character makes a brief appearance, this movie is a two-character chamber piece. Although taking place in the same room for the most parts, the movie never feels limited or repetitive because there’s a wealth of personal space to explore in the interior lives of the two characters.  

Try as she might, Emma Thompson couldn’t mask her charisma even when she’s playing an uptight retired teacher with a low acceptance of body positivity. As well as being anxious, Nancy is intelligent and incredibly open when it comes to sharing about her family life. How she feels about her two grown-up children tells us much about how she’s lived most of her life. Kudos to Thompson for her (literal) naked honesty, without which the movie would've been disingenuous in exploring openness, vulnerability and candour.

Beneath Leo’s effortless charm, he’s concealing a family rift. Daryl McCormack handles both sides of Leo with great confidence. The kind and experienced lover who deals with personal rejection is just the man to empathise with someone like Nancy. The movie is never judgemental towards Leo as a sex worker, a profession often maligned with negativity in the movies without regard to personal circumstances.

As you can imagine, this is a busy script and writer Katy Branch has packed a lot into the verbal exchanges. The earnestness does tend to overspill in some scenes and both the script and direction could do with some subtlety to spark our own interpretation rather than spelling out every thought and effect.

When all is said and done (exactly that), Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a persuasive testimony that sex is not just about physical pleasure but also a prescription for healing. The intricate balance of tone and the superb performances carry the movie through, avoiding the pitfall of a sex farce and instead, bringing depth by simply being honest and open about something that happens behind every bedroom door.


Click image above to view trailer. New window will open.




3 Comments


Ruth Maramis
Ruth Maramis
6 days ago

I love this movie! What you said in the last sentence is spot on, it's such an intricate balance that was handled beautifully. I've always loved Dame Emma Thompson, and she's phenomenal here, but glad I discovered Daryl McCormack who's astounding as well. Great chemistry between the two actors that felt real and not manufactured.

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patrickkok
5 days ago
Replying to

I can honestly say there is not a single Emma Thompson performance that I don't like. She has a rare gift.

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tuckgoh
May 20

Its been a while since i watched this but I remembered enjoying this and thinking good for you Emma Thompson for taking on this role!

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