DIRECTOR: Sophie Hyde

CAST: Emma Thompson, Daryl McCormack, Isabella Laughland, Charlotte Ware, Carina Lopes

RUNNING TIME: 97 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: A middle-aged widow (Thompson) hires a young male escort (McCormack) to give her pleasure…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

It’s turning out to be a vital week for sex work depiction in film; following Ninja Thyberg’s provocative exploration of the porn industry in Pleasure, it’s time for the escorting business to have its day with Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, a pleasing film that treats its subject matter with positive matter-of-factness and as a venture for benefits beyond the financial gain.

A joint effort by director Sophie Hyde (previously of Animals) and comedy writer Katy Brand, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is predominantly a two-hander between two very different people who come together (ahem) for a combined cause: Nancy (Emma Thompson) is a sixty-something former teacher who’s booked a fancy hotel room for herself, while Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack) is the handsome young male escort that she’s also booked to come by and give her a good time. Nancy, having recently been made a widow after thirty years of marriage, has not only never slept with anyone beside her late husband, but has also never experienced an orgasm, especially during what we later learn to have been a rather sexless marriage. It is Leo’s job, therefore, to give her everything that she’s been missing all these years, from trying out different sex positions to, hopefully, obtaining that elusive orgasm; meanwhile, the two of them begin to form a meaningful connection which threatens to cross Leo’s strict boundaries within his profession.

While the whole “hooker with a heart of gold” trope can be somewhat overplayed in the wrong hands, it’s put to good use in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, as the titular escort’s cool and collected manner serves as a soothing antithesis for poor Nancy’s neurotic uncertainty around the service she’s splashed out on. It’s an interesting dynamic that writer Brand has created, with Emma Thompson’s nerve-ridden widow on one end, whose years of thinly-veiled conservatism have caught up with her as she tries to embrace more liberal ways of thinking, and Daryl McCormack’s charismatic and undeniably handsome young sex worker, a mysterious figure in and of himself who keeps his personal life close to his abnormally well-toned chest while trying his hardest to please a rather flimsy client. Helping director Hyde’s gentle bringing of Brand’s script to the screen is how both actors have rather sizzling chemistry, enough to where you can buy their initially uncomfortable connection that becomes less tightly-wound as their raunchy sessions continue. Both actors are great here – though it’s rare that Thompson ever misses the mark – because you can absolutely feel their characters’ insecurities (Nancy’s, especially) bubbling up to the surface each and every time something moderately sexy threatens to happen, but they still remain charming enough for you to want to see them eventually reach their pertained goals, even if the constant teasing can get unnerving at times (in a good way).

It is also a liberating film, in the sense that not only does it provide a positive and even healthy view of sex work, but that it also gives the opportunity for a somewhat marginalised group of female bodies their moment in the spotlight. As with many aspects of the porn industry, there is a certain stigma and taboo nature surrounding the eroticisation of middle-aged women that many of us have been programmed to find rather icky and disgusting, but Good Luck to You, Leo Grande reminds the viewer of the vital reality that a older body can indeed be just as beautiful as those decades younger. Going back to Emma Thompson’s great performance, it’s also one where the 63-year-old actress really gets to bare all in select scenes, and not once do Hyde and Brand treat these moments as demeaning or hilarious; rather, the mature female body is always treated with profound and even stunning sincerity, which is something that you disappointingly don’t see all that much of in mainstream entertainment. The movie does a grand(e) job of presenting the older female body as nothing to be scorned at, but instead celebrated without being overly eroticised or exploited for the film’s own sex appeal, something that does make this movie feel that extra bit more special.

The movie doesn’t always work, for while most of it takes place in this one hotel room (to a point where you start to wonder if this started out as a two-hander play before being reworked into a film), the few times we do venture outside the singular location, especially during the third act, temporarily disrupt the intimate and contained flow which had been neatly established at all other points by the filmmakers. However, for the most part, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a very intriguing movie to watch, not just for its positive attitudes towards sexuality in general, but for two great central performances that are complimented by witty writing, just the right amount of pathos, and a general honesty which doesn’t come around that often in films with this type of subject matter.

Cast aside any and all reservations you may have about sex or sexuality, because between this and Pleasure this really is the week to learn more about and rally behind sex work like you’ve probably never done before.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a warm and sex-positive comedy that makes the most of its singular location and two-hander character dynamic, not just with the two great central performances by Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack, but also with the dignified presentation of the underrepresented middle-aged female body in all its unreserved and often stunning beauty.

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is now showing in cinemas nationwide – click here to find a screening near you!

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