Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
by George Wolf
If we’re boiling down film narratives to heroes and quests, it won’t take long to define Good Luck to You, Leo Grande.
Nancy is our hero, and sex is her quest.
And she would like good sex, thank you, although she can’t quite bring herself to expect the elusive release that she spent decades faking for her husband’s benefit.
But now Nancy (Emma Thompson) is an aging widow, fidgeting nervously in a hotel room and second-guessing her decision to hire handsome young escort Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack) for a tryst.
Thompson is, of course, glorious. And as much fun as it always is to see her command those in-charge characters spitting ruthlessly droll asides, Nancy reminds you how equally adept Thompson is with self-effacing humor, vulnerability and longing.
Writer Katy Brand’s script is filled with delightful wordplay, subtle wit and insightful details, one of the most resonant being Nancy’s history as a religious education teacher. We see her as a woman not only desperate to learn things she was never taught (and she has a list!), but also now regretting some of the lessons she passed down to young girls in her classrooms.
To Nancy, Leo represents more than just lust. He is the power of youth, and all the possibilities of a different generation that have long felt shameful to many from her generation.
McCormack is terrific, worthy of extra kudos for not shrinking from the prospect of simply being the “other half” of a two-hander led by a rarified talent. Leo has some issues of his own beneath his suave demeanor, and McCormack reveals them with subtlety and heart.
But back to our hero.
Nancy’s journey is, of course, an intimate one, and director Sophie Hyde doubles down on the intimacy, rarely leaving the privacy of the hotel room. Regardless, the film is never claustrophobic and always cinematic, framing even the most sexual moments with a refreshing honesty that the characters (and these two impeccable performances) deserve.
And you know what? We deserve it, too. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a simply wonderful look at embracing who you are and what you want. It’s funny and empowering, warm and touching, even heartbreaking at times.
Let’s hope it finds the audience it deserves.