Good Luck to You, Leo Grande stars two-time Academy Award-winner Dame Emma Thompson as Nancy Stokes, a widowed, retired religious studies teacher – and a sexual novice. The only man she’s ever been with is her now-deceased husband, and their sex life consisted of one position: missionary. (You guessed it!) A woman in her early sixties who has never had an orgasm, Nancy decides to take matters into her own hands – so to speak – in exploring her sexuality and hires Leo (Daryl McCormack), a male escort, to assist her in doing so.
Leo is young and charming, and polite and reassuring – so much so that it surprises Nancy when he doesn’t comment on her age. It’s clear he takes his work seriously and considers his clients’ wants and needs. In other words, he’s the ideal person for someone as inexperienced as Nancy to feel safe with when letting her guard down. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande gives us several of Nancy and Leo’s encounters, each one in the same hotel room, and each one exploring more of Nancy’s sexual desires.
Imagine booking your first major role in a film and it’s opposite Dame Emma Thompson. That was the case for McCormack, who absolutely holds his own against Thompson in every scene. Acting is reacting, and the way the pair react to one another is the same as watching two actors on stage. And other than a few extras here and there, Thompson and McCormack are the only actors in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. The trust between the two is palpable, allowing their performances to feel authentic; it’s like watching two friends have a conversation, if the conversation revolved around how one could please the other sexually.
That’s not to say that sex is the only thing they talk about. Being a fish out of water in this situation, Nancy probes Leo until he reveals little bits and pieces of his real self – not just the alias he goes by while working – and to allow herself to regain control when she feels too emotionally exposed. And Leo probes at Nancy, too, learning about her kids and her relationship with them, then using these conversations to get her to open up both physically and emotionally.
This film is a reminder to audiences that Emma Thompson was, is, and will remain one of the greatest actresses of all time. From Nancy’s first encounter with Leo when it finally hits her how terribly boring her sex life has been to when she finally has her first orgasm, Thompson doesn’t miss a single beat. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is her most literally vulnerable role yet: it’s the first time in her five-decade career that she’s done any sort of nudity. Her role in this film allows women of all ages (and men, too) to see someone in her early sixties embrace her naked body for what it is and learn to love it and appreciate it a little more, even if it isn’t perfect. Like so many of Thompson’s roles, this one is Oscar-nomination worthy.
Crucially, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande takes female sexuality seriously. It’s a delicate subject rarely looked at in media with actual care and respect. The film shows audiences that women are sexual beings and they should be allowed to be sexual beings, that there’s no reason for them to feel any shame for wanting to have sex or wanting to explore their sensuality. This is an empowering film, one that further shows us the kind of roles that can and should be written for women of all ages, not just the young ones.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is streaming on Hulu.