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Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (A Movie Review)


Starring Emma Thompson, Daryl McCormack, Isabella Laughland, Charlotte Ware, Carina Lopes, Les Mabaleka and Lennie Beare.

Screenplay by Katy Brand.

Directed by Sophie Hyde.

Distributed by Lionsgate. 97 minutes. Rated R.

In college, a writing professor told us that one of the toughest jobs a storyteller can pull off is to tell a story which takes place in one location with limited characters. The story has to be tight, and the characters have to be likable and realistic, because there are no distractions, no tangents. The audience will be laser-focused on what is happening.

The great majority of Good Luck To You, Leo Grande takes place in a single hotel room, with just two characters talking. Towards the end there is a quick respite to a restaurant and a few other characters briefly intrude, only one of which has any significant dialogue. However, for the most part, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a tight two-person narrative that feels almost like a theatrical production.

Something that focused needs fine performances and Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack deliver. No big surprise that Thompson shines – she usually does – but McCormack meets her on the highwire and lives up to her level. In very different ways they are both very brave performances – particularly Thompson who opens herself up to harsh scrutiny in many ways as an aging actress.

The story is rather simple. Thompson plays Nancy, an aging and repressed former religious ed schoolteacher and widow. After 30 years in a passionless marriage, in which she rarely had sex, and when she did, he always did it in the same rudimentary way, she has never felt passion, never had an orgasm. In fact, the only time in her life that she can recall ever being sexually aroused was a brief interrupted tryst with a waiter on a Greek vacation when she was a teen. She believes that she is incapable of passion, however she decides to find out for sure.

Therefore, she hires Leo (McCormack), a handsome and charming young “sex worker” to find out what – if anything – she has been missing all of these years. (Because of their “business” arrangement, it turns out that both character names are aliases, although their real names are both eventually revealed.)

They meet up in a swanky London hotel suite. However, Nancy has second thoughts and is flustered by the whole situation and afraid to try anything. So they just start to talk – about themselves, their families, their lives, their aspirations, their histories.

Nancy is generally caring, but she has a judgmental streak which comes out periodically, saying things that she doesn’t even realize are rather awful. He is a charmer, silver-tongued and doting. However, he does tend to prickle when asked about his own personal life.

They open up to each other – although they try to keep it in generalities – and soon an odd friendship is formed between two very different and slightly bruised-by-life people.

But how much of it is real and how much is just the situation that they find themselves in? Is this relationship something which could expand into the real world, or is it just for brief trysts in a single room?

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande takes place during four encounters in the same hotel room (although as noted above, in the fourth meeting they stop for coffee at the hotel restaurant) over the period of about a month or two. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. No distractions. (Or at least very few.)

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande is a small, smart, charming, intimate look at two of life’s outcasts – people who would likely have never met but somehow make a connection. And it shows that sex is not the ultimate in intimacy, and that sex work can be much more than seedy rendez-vous in cheap motels. In that, Leo Grande is much braver and more realistic than most films.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: June 18, 2022.

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