‘Good Luck to You Leo Grande’- A Film Review
Premiering at the 2022 Sundance festival, Sophie Hyde’s Good Luck to You Leo Grande follows recently widowed ex-schoolteacher, Nancy Stoakes (Emma Thompson) who hires a young sex worker, Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack), in a self-proclaimed lapse of self-control. Written by comedian Katy Brand, the film explores Nancy’s ultimate dissatisfaction with her and her late husband’s sex life. She admits to Leo that she’s never had an orgasm, only performed passionless missionary, and never experienced oral sex. Nancy sets out an ‘attainable list’ of things she’d like to experience with Leo during their encounters.
Interestingly, the first part of the film is set entirely in one hotel room, following a series of 3 meetings between Nancy and Leo. As the pair get closer, they discuss Nancy’s severely middle-class views of sex work, her disappointment with her children and Leo’s abandonment issues with his mother. Nancy voices her desire for youth and her fear that she wasted her life.
This film excellently explores themes of mortality, bodily acceptance, and the morality of sex work. Nancy’s silent judgments and misconceptions surrounding sex work are thinly veiled, revealed by her constantly asking Leo what he “really wants to do” with his life. Similarly, Nancy’s own internalised shame is apparent throughout the film as she struggles to accept her sexuality which she felt she has lost with age. The film is compelling in its portrayal of the growing relationship between Leo and Nancy. While the pair seem somewhat close, Nancy begins to lose sight of the fantastical element Leo provides through his services, mistaking his therapizing for a budding friendship. When Nancy admits she sought out Leo’s identity and proposes a friendship outside their meetings, Leo strikes back at Nancy.
One of the strongest elements of this film is its ending. After the blowout between the pair, Nancy manages to reach out and apologise to Leo. Nancy somewhat realises the error of her ways and only then begins to embrace her sexuality. Critics might argue the film leaves one inevitable question on the tongue: what if the roles were reversed, and it was an older male actor liaising with a younger female star? Surely it wouldn’t be viewed in the same comedic light as this version. To that I’d posit that this film can be removed from this criticism as its sole concern is not sex; instead, it sets to consider human relationships and the importance of self-confidence and acceptance.
Overall, I enjoyed the dexterity of this film. It has a striking ability to jump from comedic scenes to ones of deep emotional complexity that renders it extremely engaging. I’d recommend it to any woman looking for a film to make them feel empowered.
Written by our intern Anna Craig