I loved this!
Watching this, I kept thinking of the time Emma Thompson was on the My Dad Wrote A Porno podcast, how she spoke passionately about sex positive representation, and that the best way to demystify and destigmatise a taboo subject was a good old dose of laughter. Good Luck To You, Leo Grande embodies all of that, with the gusto and humour Emma brings to the subject.
Emma stars as Nancy Stokes, a pseudonym used by a retired widow when she hires a dashing young sex worker. Nancy is a woman who always did the right thing. She was one of the good girls. She did what she was told. Don’t run around with the boys, don’t have sex before marriage, and certainly don’t have affairs. And in reward for her constant obedience, she had 30 years of orgasmless, passionless sex. It was never upon her initiation or need. And after a lifetime of suppressing lust, she was so divorced from her own wants she wouldn’t have known where to begin to articulate them.
I’d love to say this is a generational thing, and it is to some extent, but far too often this still exists in our culture. The old chestnut – that women’s sexuality is to be feared and controlled. And importantly the film shows how women are just as important in upholding and transmitting patriarchal values. Nancy spent her career as an RE teacher, catechising young girls in the dangers of their lust and their bodies.
What I like about this film is the ability to show any number of changing dynamics in power and vulnerability from moment to moment. Nancy and Leo, the sex worker, cycle through numerous points of harmony and contention, repression and release. Such interactions are usually presented in a flat binary, with power sitting entirely with the party making the purchase. But in the film, every moment has a complex and layered negotiation of need, vulnerability, control, and loss of control.
What I also loved about the film is that is set almost entirely in one room. Like bottle episodes, almost the entire film is confined to the hotel suite Nancy rents for their visits. The only speaking roles are Nancy and Leo, with the exception of a waitress towards the end of the film (who is also beautifully played). The film rests entirely on the talented performances of Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack. They make an hour and 40 minute film whizz by, in turns gripping and funny and tragic and jubilant, and they do it with just the two of them alone in a room. No special effects, no dragons, no robots, just pure human drama.
Good Luck To You, Leo Grande is so funny, and so poignant, and so fun. Just a great watch!