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Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

A sex worker helps Emma Thompson find the pleasure that was missing from her marriage in this intimate, compact exploration of sex.
Our Rating

Genre(s): Comedy, Drama

Director: Sophie Hyde

Actors: Emma Thompson, Daryl McCormack, Isabella Laughland

Year: 2022

MPAA Rating: R

Country: UK

Nancy (the always-glorious Emma Thompson) is a recently-widowed retired schoolteacher. Leo (Daryl McCormack) is a sex worker that Nancy has hired to meet her in a nice hotel room. She makes her request bluntly. She has never had an orgasm, with or without her only partner, her late husband of 30 years. She warns him that there are no promises on her having The Big O with him, but she still feels like she has been missing out on sex’s other pleasures. In fact, here is a check list of things and positions that she’d like to accomplish.

Their sessions are only two hours, and Nancy wants to get her money’s worth. But she is jumpy. She’s talky and nervous. And after a lifetime of rote sex (and faking pleasure), it is going to take a little more to get Nancy in the mood, especially if she is truly looking for pleasure for the first time in her life.

Refreshingly, though Leo is of course young and gorgeous, you don’t see him cinematically seducing Nancy within minutes. He is patient, compassionate, and truly listens to her. He let’s her set the pace, while gently guiding her in the direction that she says she wants to go. He reminds her that his job is to provide pleasure, and for some of his clients, that doesn’t even include sex. Shoot, this guy is a natural therapist!

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is basically a two-person stage play that takes place almost entirely in a single room. And like a play, it is mostly conversation. It is a dance of Nancy wanting to feel comfortable with Leo, “to get to know him” even though he is clear that he has a persona for his job. Through their handful of sessions, there is a back and forth of figuring out a line of trust, and not just physically. They are both using fake names, and Nancy’s curiosity into the “real” Leo’s life gets the better of her.

McCormack proves that he can hold his own on screen with a pro like Thompson, and they have a nice chemistry. Thompson, of course, is a gem in anything she does. The compact journey of Good Luck to You, Leo Grande feels like a short story, and though it nimbly tackles topics like body shame, parent/child relationships, and the legality of sex work, drawing it out to an hour and a half feels like a little bit of a stretch. But at that the same time, it is a pleasure to share these two characters’ connection. You genuinely want to wish good luck to both of them by the end.

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