The mixture of tender understanding and bold eroticism in Good Luck To You, Leo Grande is a powerful cocktail.
Published on July 7, 2022
Rating 4.5 /5
There’s more than just romance in Good Luck To You, Leo Grande. There’s also an eroticism that just doesn’t feel as present or earnest in most modern romance pictures. What starts as a cautious and awkward encounter between a woman and a sex worker turns into a profound relationship where there’s more than just sex involved.
Emma Thompson plays Nancy Stokes, a retired teacher, and widow who is seeking some sexual pleasure. She calls up to her hotel room Leo Grande, a hunky prostitute played by Daryl McCormack. Having been a professional at this job, Leo slowly and playfully eases Nancy into deciding whether or not to sleep with him. Not having paid for sex before, Nancy finds herself tossing and turning about whether or not she can go through with this. To loosen her up, Leo simply talks with her and tries to get to know the woman who decided to call him.
Eventually, Leo works his magic and convinces Nancy to let down her prude side and explore sex again. This leads to more scheduled hotel visits in the future and the two develop quite a relationship. In the same way that Nancy becomes more accepting and engaging in certain positions, she also starts exploring more about the man she hires. Perhaps too much. Boundaries are crossed and lessons need to be learned as the older woman attempts to see the error of her ways and love herself more as a person. And she’ll do it all while letting her sexuality be reawakened in the most passionate ways.
There’s an uncompromising frankness with such a film that is mostly just two people in a room talking and having sex. There are plenty of funny exchanges where Leo’s an almost clinical approach to his sex work makes him charming around the unsure Nancy. There is as much tenderness as there is steaminess, where scenes can go from one pleasing sexual act to one sweet conversation.
It helps that we slowly get to know these characters considering they’re introduced quickly in the first session of sorts. In the same way that they open up to each other, the film is up to us, trying to make us feel comfortable with these people and see that there’s more to them than just their bodies. It’s particularly sobering to watch a refined Thompson go from a flustered woman who is reluctant for a sexual encounter to a stern scheduler who knows exactly what she wants at the next session to a stumbling mess of a woman trying to learn more about Leo. Leo’s charisma also makes him such a powerful figure when he finds himself distrustful of Nancy and nearly becomes a violent heap for having his world peeled back more than he cares for.
The sex scenes are not so much explicit as they are freeing. We don’t see much of Nancy and Leo engaged in the sheets, usually cutting away when the kissing starts or picking up during an act of the oral variety being interrupted with talk. But we do get a lot of scenes of the characters baring all and feeling comfortable with themselves. This seems easy enough for McCormack given his chiseled physique but it feels empowering for Thompson to show such comfort. By the end of the film, Thompson appears completely nude and has a renewed sense of ease and contentment.
The mixture of tender understanding and bold eroticism in Good Luck To You, Leo Grande is a powerful cocktail. Where other films tread lightly on such topics, here’s a film willing to explore the lesser-scene elements of getting older, finding redemption, and showing body comfort in a romance built for more than just a handful of bedroom scenes. Considering this is a film where 85% of the screen time is spent in a bedroom, it finds more to do within than just throw McCormack and Thompson at each other, as hot as those scenes are.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.