Nancy (Emma Thompson) is a retired teacher and a widow who has never had an orgasm in her life. Generally, she feels incredibly inexperienced sexually. But she is about to change that. She has hired sex worker Leo (Daryl McCormack) to expand her sexual horizons. Even with that decision, though, this is easier said than done.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a rather revolutionary character study that centers the sexuality of older women and the emotional entanglements that come with sex. It’s beautiful, insightful and touching and blows the boundaries of what we usually get to see on screen wide open.
There is a lot to unpack in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande and how it deals with its topic, so before I say something about that, let me just say first just how fantastically it is made. The script, the direction, the cinematography, the set design and above all, Thompson and McCormack are absolutely amazing. And a lot hinges on the Thompson and McCormack who give not only their respective roles nuance and vulnerability, but also simply work together as a “couple”, so to speak.
In its deceptively simple setting, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande has the space to touch on a lot. What stood out to me at first was the way it deals with Nancy’s sexuality. The way it shows Nancy as somebody with desires, even if the thought of being “lustful” apparently makes her blush. It’s an indictment of how female desire is treated in general, and especially when women get older. It’s something that is barely allowed to be, but Nancy fights to be able to want (the satisfaction of this want is secondary as it is hard enough to confront her wants in the first place). In all of her brittle conflictedness, there is power here.
The second thing that really stood out to me is how sex work is treated in the film. The film gives Leo plenty of room to state why he likes what he does and why he isn’t exploited, taking care to make Leo fully human in small little moments where we can see his own nerves under the suave exterior. But it also touches on the darker sides of his history, showing what brought him to sex work in the first place: queermisia and judgements from the people supposed to love him. And it shows how clients are in a position of power. Thus the film manages a balance that sees sex work per se as something good, but also acknowledges that with the legal precarities and stigma attached to it, it is not always a good or safe choice to make, and sometimes becomes a last resort. (Being a last resort, though, doesn’t make it harmful in itself either.)
There is even more in the film, and I’m sure that different aspects will speak to different people. It’s a small miracle how much complexity Hyde and Brand can put into the film – and all without sacrificing a sense of lightness and humor that makes its appearance again and again, even when things take harsher turns. It makes Good Luck to You, Leo Grande an awe-inspiring and wonderful piece of cinema that get at hardly acknowledged truths.
Summarizing: Amazing and fantastic.