Good Luck To You, Leo Grande – Review

Release Date – 17th June 2022, Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 38 minutes, Director – Sophie Hyde

Retired RE teacher Nancy (Emma Thompson) hires young sex worker Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack) in the hope of finally discovering the sexual freedom that has been missing for her life for so many years.

It’s not often that I find myself watching a film and almost instantly really looking forward to writing, or speaking, the review afterwards. However, in the case of Good Luck To You, Leo Grande there’s so much unlocked in the mind thanks to the conversations that it glimpses and encourages that the mind swirls with thoughts, and ramblings, long after the brief credits have flashed by. There’s a lot to unpack, evolve and discuss from what the film manages to get in to just 98 fast-flowing minutes. Which, to a fair extent, is slightly incredible to think seeing as, as many people have likely already stated in regards to this film and many other products covering similar themes, it’s 2022…

Earlier in the year when reviewing Ti West’s horror film X I claimed that the core motives of the killers appeared to be “young people shouldn’t have sex because old people can’t”. The idea of late-life sex appeared to be worked into scenes of horror more than anything else. However, ailments got in the way of murderous couple Howard and Pearl’s hopes of continuing sexual freedom. Although, this appears to have been no problem for sex worker Leo Grande’s (Daryl McCormack) oldest client, at the age of 82. Far from bordering on that age, retired RE teacher Nancy (Emma Thompson) hires the “aesthetically perfect and apparently nice enough” Grande in the hope of experiencing the sexual freedom she was never able to feel during her long marriage to her two-years-passed husband.

“There are nuns out there with more sexual experience than me” she claims while pacing around the hotel room in which nearly all of the film’s drama takes place. There’s worry and anxiety from her about so many different things. From body image to whether she’ll be good enough for the man whose company she has hired. Katy Brand’s excellent screenplay taps into such themes with thought and eloquence, helped by Thompson’s typically thoughtful styling and mannerisms – particularly in a project that she clearly cares about and knows what it means, plus that seems to mean a lot to her individually.

While there’s plenty discussed between the pair in the quickly familiar hotel room, from their families to their lines of work and morals of what they’re doing – leading to an excellently unexpected ‘your mum’ joke that fits in perfectly to its surroundings – what truly rounds off the themes of the conversations is in the brief, but precisely crafted, moments of sensuality between the pair. As the barriers are gradually taken down for Nancy as she attempts to reclaim herself and her sexual identity of years of unfulfillment a snap is created within the floating music that gently sweeps into the background of these pivotal moments. Wonderfully captured by Sophie Hyde, whose fantastic direction shines throughout and brings the piece to life, helping to avoid a stage-like feel, which could so easily happen in a largely one-location two-hander such as this. All combining to seemingly perfectly round off the themes and ideas of what has been discussed in the interactions prior, before moving on to further develop things in the next meeting between the pairing.

Whilst so naturally delving into its themes of female sexuality, simply posing and exploring points for discussion without any provocative proclamations, the film also opens doors for points about male body positivity, alongside shared views and worries. While Nancy prepares herself in the bathroom, Leo looks at himself in the mirror, scanning his body, thoughts clearly rushing through his mind. Such shots are filled with subtleties in McCormack’s fine performance as his character hides plenty of personal details – he claims to tell his potentially distant mum and brother that he works on an oil rig instead of as a sex worker. Again, such elements are simply posed as natural facts. Things that happen.

There’s much power within what the film displays and the way in which it goes about showing certain details. It’s not in the matter of fact nature, but the way in which the characters discuss, behave and act when noone else is around, before gradually opening up to each other. Hints and moments of tenderness, both personally and jointly intimate – “it’s not vain to enjoy your body, to love it” – which are subtly dotted throughout the key details of the characters and their behaviours. It adds to the feelings of thought and care that have clearly gone into making this, and it allows more for the mind to ponder while simply being caught up in the entertainment of the film.

It shouldn’t be ignored just how funny Good Luck To You, Leo Grande is. From the initial hesitation and anxieties which create a slight air of awkwardness, although never entering cringe-comedy, to Thompson’s shocked blurtings and increasing desires to explore different positions there’s a lot to delight in in terms of the humour that’s presented. Frequently laugh out loud funny the chemistry between the central pairing, and the fine screenplay which they add effectiveness to, you easily believe in the on-screen figures and find interest and amusement within their ventures. The lightness and humour make those snaps – as if you can literally hear the click of the finger, or the cord to the lightbulb – all the more poignant. Allowing for a moment not to pause, but to reflect on what’s been seen so far, what’s happening now and the points which the film poses and discusses, again in 2022. Like the characters grow to be, the film is unashamed about what it is and what it poses to the audience. It’s a film for natural openings of conversation that will likely be highly effective in doing just that, doing so in a wonderfully entertaining way.

Naturally and positively unashamed, Good Luck To You, Leo Grande feels like an original breath of fresh air. Funny, thoughtful and excellently executing its ‘snaps’ to round of its themes, there’s a lot to like. And the conversations sprouted from it may be as interesting as the film itself.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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