Let’s get this out of the way from the get: sex in films, especially in American cinema, has become a very taboo subject. We’re uncomfortable talking about sex with our peers, even though we joke about it incessantly. There’s another side to sex, though; the need to feel wanted, embraced, to have our desires and passions brought to the edge, fulfilled, if you will. Fortunately, other parts of the world still celebrate the act of coitus. Thank goodness for Sophia Hyde’s sensually humorous Good Luck to you, Leo Grande.
Emma Thompson is Nancy Stokes. As we learn, she is recently widowed and very, very shy regarding the film’s acts. The breezy script from Katy Brand and the sharp direction from Hyde emphasize the intrinsic needs of the act of love.
Brand frames her script with the devilishly good-looking Leo Grande, played by Daryl McCormack. The story starts with Leo going about his daily routine in a coffee shop. The English sunshine radiates through the coffee shop as we see the character get up from his table and exit into a busy street, stopping only to look at himself in a reflective window. Leo exudes self-admiration and confidence, though we aren’t fully aware of why.
Good Luck to you, Leo Grande has one other setting, a hotel suite that Nancy has rented. The early scenes depict Nancy’s apprehension, anticipation, and furtive acts. Nancy rummages about the room, trying to figure out what to do when Leo shows up at her door.
Linking back to the opening sequence, the story’s revelation that Leo is a sex worker is not a revelation of sorts; the character’s confidence exudes sexuality. Through their first encounter, we learn just how uptight Nancy is, how reluctantly supportive she is of her kids, and how much she needs an emotional and physical release.
Hyde’s technical team helps to elevate these emotions and their initial encounter. Miren Marañón’s production design evokes the simplicity of the event while highlighting the character’s complex feelings. Although it is a beautiful suite, it is drab, plain, and brightened up by the same robust sunshine filtering through a huge window, a factory stack in the background. Bryan Mason’s cinematography creates emotional complexity within the intimate framing. Like sex, every motion of the characters and camera has intent as Nancy and Leo ease into their act.
Still, Nancy is reticent. The story focuses on her quirks, her life as a married woman, not feeling entirely satisfied, looking, longing for an adventure. Leo gives that to her. There’s a moment in the film where Nancy has a list of the acts she’d like to try with Leo. Trying to overcomplicate an act like sex makes the entire situation awkward for the participants. Hyde and Brand don’t let the story or the action, as it were, become encumbered in the awkwardness.
It is elementary to accept Nancy and Leo as contemporaries despite their age difference; Nancy seeks a passion she never had and Leo’s past bubbles to the surface. Love has no actual boundaries other than what you’re willing to explore. That’s the sensual magic key to what makes Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. Nancy stretches those boundaries just a bit too far as the emotions begin to cloud the service Leo can provide.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, now streaming on Hulu in the U.S. and theaters in the U.K., expertly examines the sensual side of humans, the intrinsic need for companionship, and the drive to bring out our most profound inner passions in a respectful, humorous way.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
Directed by Sophie Hyde
Written by Katy Brand
Starring Emma Thompson, Daryl McCormack, Isabella Laughland, Charlotte Ware
97 mins, R, Searchlight Pictures