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Review: Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

June 22, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson) is a retired religious ethics teacher in her fifties who hires a male escort named Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack) for a series of sexual encounters in a hotel room, in the Sundance drama Good Luck to You, Leo Grande.

Nancy’s husband, the only man she ever slept with in her life, passed away two years ago. She has never had an orgasm, and craves a satisfying sexual experience. Enter Leo (a pseudonym), a fit, young sex worker who can fulfill her desires. Nancy has a list of things that she wants to try (giving and receiving oral sex, etc.), but also feels shame around her body and guilt for paying someone to have sex, let alone someone much younger than her.

Directed by Australian filmmaker Sophie Hyde, working from a very articulate screenplay by English actress and writer Katy Brand, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande mostly unfolds as a chamber piece between Nancy and Leo. The vast majority of the film takes place in their hotel room over a series of meetings, finding drama in the constant push-and-pull between the very buttoned up Nancy and the more liberated Leo, as they share frank and honest conversations about desire and shame.

Partway through the film, Leo gets Nancy to dance as a way to calm her nerves before working up to the courage to perform oral sex on him (her idea). And their interactions together are like a dance, with the heart of the film being the ways that she keeps pulling back and he keeps finding ways to put her at ease, while prioritizing her own pleasure and comfort. In some of its best moments, the film serves as a really good conversation piece about the morality and legality of sex work (Leo makes it clear that he isn’t soliciting sex, but rather selling his company, and if the interaction goes there it goes there).

Hyde and Brand have crafted a sex-positive film that is attuned to the nuances of why someone might be uncomfortable with intimacy, but also why a person might choose sex work as a sort of vocation to help others find fulfillment within themselves. That said, the film doesn’t quite stick the landing, with a conflict introduced in the last act that feels like it gets resolved a bit too quickly in the somewhat rushed final scenes. But the film is at its best when it is simply a two-hander between Nancy and Leo that recalls a really good stage play, with the performances of the two leads bringing the material to life.

Thompson delivers some of her finest work, portraying both her character’s nervousness and how she gains confidence around her body and sexuality over the course of the film (including moments of full frontal nudity). McCormack matches her, breathing life into a character who, due to the nature of his work, remains somewhat elusive for much of the film. It’s their strong performances that make Good Luck to You, Leo Grande an engaging, thought-provoking character drama that is worth watching.

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video in Canada.

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