Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, 2022.
Directed by Sophie Hyde.
Starring Emma Thompson, Daryl McCormack, and Isabella Laughland.
Follows Nancy Stokes, a 55-year-old widow yearning for some adventure, human connection, and some sex, good sex.
Nancy Stokes (a self-conscious, insecure, courageous, pitch-perfect performance from Emma Thompson that ranks among her career best) has hired a male escort. His name is Leo Grande (relative newcomer Daryl McCormack delivering a breakthrough turn, especially as the role increasingly becomes more complex in the third act). The widowed Nancy has never had an orgasm, much less a husband that she tried to satisfy her that way (he considered either variation of oral demeaning).
But at 55 years old, Nancy is sure she wants to genuinely explore her sexuality, vowing never to fake an orgasm again, even if it means breaking out of a thick shell, with everything from shame to a judgmental society keeping her at bay (and sometimes judging herself for fear of what she could become sexually). Naturally, she wants someone younger for various reasons, chief among them being she wants a sex education and not someone prone to breaking a hip, reminding her of her age.
Directed by Sophie Hyde (with a script and creation credit from Katy Brand) Good Luck to You, Leo Grande follows these private fancy hotel arrangements, with the male model type twentysomething Leo, a radiant and charming sex positive specimen that is here to give her pleasure however she sees fit; no feeling bad over age gaps (although they do each discuss why they are here and what they enjoy about the sex work dynamic, more so Leo), no laughing over inexperience, and no bones to pick about physical beauty.
Nancy may still be afraid to take the plunge, with Emma Thompson eliciting that anxiety sensitively and beautifully every step of the way with Daryl McCormack balancing that out with reassurance, kindness, calmness, and just enough tasteful seductiveness to comfort and ease her into the mood, especially whenever she pulls away for personal conversations or questioning if she is doing something morally wrong.
As a former teacher that looked down on body positivity, there is a wealth of hypocrisy flooding Nancy’s mindset, but there’s also a sense that it’s repression and judgment over others that she sincerely regrets. Meanwhile, Leo admits he doesn’t feel comfortable telling his mom what he does for a living, fabricating tales of an oil rig profession. Together, they work through some of their concerns and negative feelings, but still within an emotional distance as Leo is not necessarily looking for a romantic connection. At the end of the day, he is providing a service.
There’s also an amusing segment where Leo briefly touches upon some odder clients (no kink-shaming here) or vulnerable, lonely ones (including a disabled woman that desires him to get in the bathtub with her), all of which would make for wildly entertaining and insightful projects themselves.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande also doesn’t shy away from how consuming these wish fulfillment fantasies can be, especially for someone alone, unenthused by her grown children, sexually repressed, and inexperienced. This section could have gotten more time, especially considering the ending is quick to patch things up for a feel-good finale, but the overall points made ring true.
A good chunk of the story is very lightweight, funny, and wholesomely erotic (the film has some of the most potent and meaningful nude imagery in recent memory, with gentle camera movement from Bryan Mason that lends a cinematic feel despite the single location setting), but wisely uses much of its conversational tone to interrogate Leo’s reality (it shouldn’t be surprising that he is not only pushing away from personal conversations to stay professional) and Nancy’s burgeoning sexual boldness and road to feeling comfortable in her skin.
It’s also plain refreshing to watch a sophisticated sex comedy more concerned with the universality of pleasure and how everyone deserves it, regardless of age, appearance, physical abilities, or experience. A deep respect for sex work bursts through every dialogue exchange in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, as Nancy and Leo get steamy and thoughtful. Still not sold? It has the classiest blow job you’ll ever see on screen.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com