Directed by: Sophie Hyde
Premise: A middle aged woman (Emma Thompson) hires a male sex worker (Daryl McCormack). In the course of their sessions she confronts her insecurities and the disappointments and regrets of her life.
What Works: There is a version of the coming-of-age story that focuses on older characters. Whereas traditional coming-of-age stories are about young people transitioning into adulthood and figuring out who they are, these other stories are about characters in middle age or later who make up for lost time or reach for unrealized dreams. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is an excellent example of this kind of narrative. The whole story plays out in about four scenes. Nancy is a widow whose sexual repertoire is thin and she wants to fulfill her fantasies with a young male sex worker named Leo. The relationship between the two central characters develops organically within each scene and across the film and the actors carefully gauge their performances. Nancy is extremely nervous at first but her experiences with Leo give her confidence but also to a desire for intimacy that isn’t possible in these circumstances. Emma Thompson is excellent in the film. She bares herself literally but also emotionally. Daryl McCormack is also impressive as Leo. He’s a smooth and comforting presence but there are small moments that reveal Leo is playing a role; he is in the service industry and his job is to make his customers happy. There are cracks in Leo’s cool façade and McCormack reveals his own vulnerability. Both actors are very precise in the way they relate to each other and they have a likable chemistry. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is not simply a movie about sex. It is about this woman’s sense of self and the relationship between her emotional well-being and her body. The film celebrates carnality but in a way that is life affirming and honest. The story also touches upon the other aspects of women’s lives, namely their roles as a spouse, a mother and a professional, and it is here that the film is most provocative in the way it suggests that some of these traditional roles might not be as satisfying as society insists.
What Doesn’t: The only reservation about Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is its tidiness. The film is brutally honest about most of the topics it addresses but the picture also tends to minimize some of its conflicts and romanticize the outcomes. For the first part of the movie Leo is so flawless in his looks and reactions that he’s unbelievable. The character has more human moments later on but the ending mostly discards with the conflicts that it established.
DVD extras: Available on Hulu.
Bottom Line: Good Luck to You, Leo Grande uses a simple premise to facilitate a complex study of womanhood and female pleasure. Although it may be overly optimistic, the film is joyous without being hokey and it features a pair of great performances by Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack.
Episode: #907 (June 26, 2022)