Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a funny, touching film that echoes powerful messages about sex and body positivity. It manages to hit that dramedy sweet spot with the help of two phenomenal lead performances that are as different as they are harmonious. I have been a huge fan of Emma Thompson for a long time, and Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a perfect outlet for her late-stage career rejuvenation. Daryl McCormack on the other hand plays a sweet and sensitive sex worker willing to do whatever it takes to help her achieve the big “O.” One can’t help fall in love with the charming friendship formed between a cautionary retired schoolteacher and her man-for-hire.
The film starts us at the first meeting of this sexual tryst, and naturally both parties involved use fake names. Nancy, a 55-year-old widow, and Leo, a highly-recommended male sex worker, have easy chemistry that spills into every moment. This is fully Nancy and Leo’s movie, perhaps being birthed during the pandemic of 2020. However, it sets itself apart from other small-cast features by fully immersing us into these characters. The duo have an instant connection—Nancy insists that her only fantasy is to “have sex with you,” whilst Leo tries his hardest to make her feel comfortable with the help of his notably soothing Irish accent. Whatever money she is paying for Leo is never disclosed, and it is as unimportant to the storyline as one would expect.
What sets this apart is Thompson as the lead, who has never done a role like this before as far as I can remember. As Nancy begins exploring herself sexually for the first time in her life, something inside her changes irrevocably. She feels old, sexy, and insecure before Leo comes into her life. Nancy has such minimal sexual experience that she has only been with her husband of 31 years and no one else. It goes without saying that their sex was strictly vanilla, as Nancy admits to Leo that she has never given or received oral before. In her own words, “there are nuns out there with more sexual experience.” The second time they meet, Nancy has a list of ways they can explore one another’s bodies. It is a silly and cute practice that expertly fits the background of Nancy being a schoolteacher.
Leo is fascinating, but in an entirely different kind of way. Whereas Nancy is upfront in regards to most of what she is feeling, Leo only reveals tiny nuggets of his life outside their arrangement. Don’t be fooled by the chiseled body—Leo has insecurities of his own. Nancy mines for his own feelings and emotions as she begins to slide into hers for the first time in her life. When the script calls for cutesy moments, like Leo and Nancy dancing together or making silly blowjob jokes, McCormack and Thompson are such fun to watch.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is ultimately sexual, but still tasteful. Not until the film’s final ten minutes do we dip into explicit waters, but is it played for shock value or for body positivity? Director Sophie Hyde and writer Sophie Hyde (who previously worked with Thompson on 2010’s Nanny McPhee Returns) craft a lovable dramedy that has the most enduring message one could want. Learn to love yourself, and the love around you will follow.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande screened at 2022’s Tribeca Film Festival. It unzips its pants to audiences everywhere when it debuts exclusively to Hulu on Friday, June 17th.