Good Luck to You, Leo Grande stars the legendary actress Emma Thompson and up-and-comer Daryl McCormack (who plays Isaiah Jesus in Peaky Blinders). Sophia Hyde directs the film. Hyde started her career focusing on short documentary films and made her full-length feature debut with 52 Tuesdays in 2014.
After seeing the trailer for Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, I assumed that the film would be a mediocre comedy with forced humour about sex and the age gap between the two characters. Yet, right from the start, Emma Thompson delves deeply into her character, portraying a retired school (religion) teacher who, in a moment of madness, rents a hotel room after hiring a young sex worker named Leo Grande.
The chemistry between the young McCormack and the veteran Thompson is off the charts. McCormack plays the young stud with charm and confidence, while Thompson is more subdued, nervous, apprehensive, and cautious than Nancy Stokes. While watching Thompson on screen, there were many times I turned to my wife and said, “she is just an amazing actress.” The great actors of our time can deliver so much in their performances without uttering a word and saying all that’s required in their facial expressions.
This is one of Emma Thompson’s best and bravest performances in her magnificent career. I will also start the Oscar campaign to get Thompson Best Actress nominations to come award season. When I say bravest, I mean there are moments in the film that you don’t see many 63-year-old women in film take, and for that, I stand up to applaud Thompson. Not to take a back seat to the great Thompson, McCormack impressed me greatly. This was my first chance to see him on screen. McCormack gives an exceptional performance. He looked so comfortable it felt like he was not playing a character in front of a camera, trying his best to put his client at ease.
Before hiring a sex worker, Nancy Stokes was married for over thirty years and only had sexual relations with her husband. Leo Grande can see Stokes’ apprehension/embarrassment and never pressure her into doing the deed. Stokes stalls by asking Grande as many questions as possible to delay the horizontal mambo. Stokes makes a confession that becomes a challenge for Leo…in all her 30-plus years of marriage, she never experienced an orgasm. Whether or not Stokes get an orgasm is a running cute joke throughout the movie.
I can say that 90% or more of the film takes place in the hotel room that Nancy has rented. Throughout their time together, Nancy and Leo make small funny talk about Grande’s sex work, the odd moments, and the dangers for men and women in that line of work. When it comes down to it, the nitty-gritty of the story and dialogue comes from the tension that builds up when Nancy tries to dig into Leo’s real life. It leads to some of the most poignant scenes of the movie.
At times Nancy feels insecure with her body and her desires/sexual needs, Leo assures and compliments her, and most importantly, he always respectfully asks for her consent, even if it is just to kiss her on the cheek.
Having the genders flipped makes it a more interesting dynamic. Maybe the sex worker being female might’ve changed the film’s tone. Who knows? All I know is having an older woman hiring a young man for sex was a breath of fresh air. Katy Brand writes the film. Brand’s screenplay is tightly written, plausible, witty, and charming. The dialogue throughout the film is mature and unpretentious. The film is filled with intelligent humour and dramatic moments. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is currently in my top five films of the year.