“Brave” is a word that gets thrown around a lot when it comes to acting, often when a performer — particularly a woman — dares to look unattractive on screen. Think Charlize Theron in Monster, Jennifer Aniston in Cake, and even Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones. Well, those ladies are all cowards compared to Emma Thompson, who boldly bares it all, literally and lovingly, in Sophie Hyde’s intimate drama Good Luck to You, Leo Grande.
Beautifully written by Katy Brand, the film introduces us to two characters: widow/former teacher Nancy Stokes (Thompson) and handsome young escort-for-hire Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack). They meet when Nancy, fed up with wondering what she’s been missing out on for so long, hires Leo to help her find sexual satisfaction for the first time in her life. She knows what she wants, but wanting it and getting it are entirely different things, and at first she’s very nervous around Leo, full of insecurity and self-doubt. He’s patient and kind, reassuring and confident, never wavering in his message to her: She is deserving of passion and fulfillment.
It takes a long time, but eventually Nancy (though it turns out her name isn’t really Nancy) starts to believe Leo (though it turns out his name isn’t really Leo). Over the course of three meetings/sessions, the two discuss everything from legalizing sex work to the rewards — or lack therof — of marriage and parenting. They test each other’s boundaries and beliefs and expose each other in every possible way. And they have sex. Lots of it.
But Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is never gratuitous or exploitative. Rather it’s empathetic, complex, and bracingly honest. It celebrates desire, connection, and love for both yourself and others. It assures viewers that life is definitely not over in middle age, and it encourages seeing beauty in everyone you meet. By the time Thompson stands naked in front of a full-length mirror, examining herself with a small but clearly appreciative smile, you’ll want to stand up and cheer — or, better yet, do the same yourself.– Betsy Bozdech
Team #MOTW’s comments:
Loren King Nudity and sex may bring the curious to Good Luck to You, Leo Grande but many viewers will be surprised to be moved more by the touching emotional journey that the characters take. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, about a middle aged woman’s sexual awakening, rests entirely on the performances of its two leads who elevate the premise to a tender tale of affirmation and self-acceptance. Daryl McCormack as Leo, a hunky sex worker and, especially, Emma Thompson as Nancy, the uptight widow who pays for his services, bring more introspection and nuance to the frisky material than one might expect. Read full review.
Sherin Nicole Due to its gorgeously glib leading man and a leading lady who seeks connection through afternoon delights, you might imagine Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a study in awakening sensuality. You’d be right and yet what writer/creator Katy Brand and director Sophie Hyde want to talk about is freedom—from being defined by others, from the past, and from the hurt we’ve caused or continue to carry. This cheeky but vulnerable stageplay-styled film certainly gets the conversation going, and if you can find better mouthpieces than Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack you’d just be showing off. Wouldn’t you? The characters they portray are beautifully broken and their onscreen duet is magnetic in its dissonance. As Nancy and Leo reach for revelation, on equal footing, we wonder if it might be beyond their grasps.
Nell Minow: Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack show us that the more we try to protect ourselves from pain, the more we separate ourselves from the only kind of intimacy that makes use feel seen, loved, and home. The performances themselves are a gift of intimacy from the actors as they bring touching vulnerability to the story.
Leslie Combemale Instead of My Dinner With Andre, the deceptively simple conversation between two men that goes to deep, meaningful places, imagine My Sex With Leo. Like My Dinner With Andre, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is full of talk (with a little sex thrown in), but becomes incredibly meaningful, layered, and ultimately life-affirming. This is all within the context of sexually unfulfilled widow ‘Nancy Stokes’ (a never better Emma Thompson) hiring sex worker ‘Leo Grande’ (up-and-coming Irish actor Daryl McCormack) to take him through the sexual paces on a list she’s put together of sexual experiences. She is a retired teacher and mother of two grown, seemingly needy children. She reveals early on that she’s has never had an orgasm. He presents himself as a professional with a job to do, a job he does well. Nearly the entire film takes place in one hotel room, and through their interactions and intimate conversations they are both changed in profound and fundamental ways. Read full review.
Jennifer Merin Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, starring the ever grand Emma Thompson and, as Leo Grande, the very charming Daryl McCormack, is a thoroughly engaging two-hander about ‘Nancy Stokes,’ a staid middle aged retired school teacher who wants to experience an orgasm before she dies. In fact and fantasy, ‘Nancy,’ a recent widow, has got a sexual bucket list and she is determined to get every item on it done — not by G-d! or by George!, but by Leo, the endearing for-hire stud muffin. With Sophie Hyde’s brilliant direction of screenwriter Katy Brand’s exquisitely nuanced characters fleshed out by the daring and dazzling duo of Thompson and McCormack, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a scintillating mix of humor, compassion and pathos — a sex-positive scenario from a feminist point of view. Glory be!!!
Sandie Angulo Chen: Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is an intimate, play-like dramedy about Nancy (Emma Thompson) a retired widow who hires Leo (Daryl McCormack), a young sex worker to help her have the sexual experiences she was denied during a passion-less marriage. Director Sophie Hyde and writer Katy Brand opt for a layered, sex-positive story that’s more about connection and conversation than titillation. Yes, Nancy and Leo have sex, but this isn’t Fifty Shades of Grey. Set in the same hotel room across multiple sessions, the movie explores how the two approach their time together, discussing everything about the ethics of sex work to the importance of loving your body. Thompson and McCormack are riveting portraying their characters’ many contrasts – she’s older, White, anxious, and hesitant, he’s young, biracial, patient, and encouraging. There’s humor to proceedings but also depth, and eventually a candor and sex scenes that benefit from the female gaze. A thought-provoking and memorable film about the power of pleasure.
Liz Whittemore Good Luck To You, Leo Grande is magnificent with a whip-smart script and fabulous performances. Daryl McCormack is charming, sensual, and immediately puts the audience at ease. There’s something about his presence that is calming and elegant. You’re drawn to him. He gives a flawless and exceedingly nuanced performance. Emma Thompson is sheer perfection. Watching her work is a pleasure, no pun intended. She astonishes me with her choices. They are so organic that I often forget she’s acting. She carries a universal vulnerability that speaks directly to the audience. Read full review.
Cate Marquis Emma Thompson stars as a by-the-rules middle-aged widow called Nancy, who takes the uncharacteristic step of hiring a handsome young sex worker named Leo (Daryl McCormack), who is more a male version of a call-girl, in her quest for something she has never had, an orgasm, in director Sophie Hyde’s Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. You may think you know what to expect, but instead there is more depth and discussion, about sex workers, sexual fantasies, changing attitudes and expectations, than bedroom romp in this thoughtful, thought-provoking British drama.
Title: Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
Director: Sophie Hyde
Release Date: June 17, 2022
Running Time: 97 minutes
Screenwriter: Katy Brand
Distribution Company: Fox Searchlight/Hulu
AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Betsy Bozdech, Leslie Combemale, Marilyn Ferdinand, Pam Grady, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sherin Nicole, Liz Whittemore, Susan Wloszczyna
Edited by Jennifer Merin