Tag Archives: Daryl McCormack

Here Endeth

The Lesson

by Hope Madden

There is something elegantly old school about the slow burn literary mystery afoot in Alice Troughton’s feature directorial debut, The Lesson. Its overt, unyielding structure suggests a familiar, even predictable thriller.

However zealously screenwriter Alex MacKeith subscribes to the traditional three act story, theme stated on page 5 and all that, Troughton and a superb cast still manage to mesmerize you. You’re given every piece of evidence you will need, and yet you’ll wonder ceaselessly where it will all lead.

Troughton’s direction evokes a tense thriller, even though the story itself never feels as if danger’s around the corner. Still, the camera angles and shot choices – gorgeous though they are – leave you on edge. With her creeping camera and gorgeous location Troughton blurs the line between intellectual drama and mystery thriller.

Her stellar cast helps. Richard E. Grant plays renowned writer J.M. Sinclair, whose son Bertie (Stephen McMillan) is in the market for a tutor to help prepare him for Oxford’s entrance exams. Aspiring writer and massive Sinclair fan Liam (Daryl McCormack, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande) gets the job.

Julie Delpy also stars as family matriarch Hélène, whose aloof demeanor strikes the perfect chord against Grant’s vibrance. It would be wrong to say Grant chews scenery, but you certainly can’t look away from him. A charming narcissist, viciously insecure and competitive, his Sinclair is a big presence, which allows the balance of characters to quietly observe, connive even.

McCormack, who was so impressive in the two-person revelation of Leo Grande, delivers another introspective and surprising performance. At times Liam seems to mirror Sinclair’s insecurity and artist’s fragility, but this is not that story.

The conclusion feels a little tidy, but the intricate ballet of character study and mystery that precedes it is so tight you’ll forgive the minor misstep.

The Pleasure Principle

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.