Sundance 2022: Embracing Pleasure in 'Good Luck to You, Leo Grande'
by Alex Billington
January 23, 2022
This is a knock out! There is nothing wrong with enjoying sex. But we still live in a world that pushes back against this. There's still many people who believe it is this taboo, private thing, and the only real use for it is creating children. Or something that they don't have control over because they never learned about their own body. This film finally pushes back against this misunderstanding and intolerance, and reminds us that we all need to learn to appreciate and enjoy sex more. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a lovely little revolutionary film about sex and pleasure, directed by the Australian filmmaker Sophie Hyde (director of Animals previously), from a screenplay written by Katy Brand. It's a beautifully intimate, honest one-room drama about a woman who, at age 55, finally wants to have some real, good sex. And though she's afraid of it, and has never had an orgasm, with the right conversation and right touch, she's finally ready to open up.
Brand & Hyde's Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is clearly another pandemic film made with constraints, one location with only two actors, but that doesn't limit the film at all. It takes place almost entirely in one hotel room, except for a few other scenes, and all of it is about the conversations between two people. There have been many wonderful indie films like this before this one, such as Interview (Sundance 2007) or My Dinner with Andre (NYFF 1981) or Sleuth (1972 / 2007). When the script is as brilliant and biting as this one, this kind of cinematic concept can work wonders. And this definitely does. Emma Thompson stars as Nancy, an extremely nervous, extremely anxious woman who hires a man named "Leo Grande", played by Daryl McCormack, for an encounter at this hotel. Her husband recently passed and after only ever sleeping with him for her entire life, she's ready for more. And she's hired the most attractive man anyone could ever find.
Above all, this film is an astonishingly sex positive, pro-sex worker, anti-body shaming creation. The way it delicately and frankly handles all of these sensitive topics is truly heartening. Every question she has, every worry that is bothering her, is addressed in their conversations one way or another. She feels ashamed about hiring a sex worker, but he assures her that this is his chosen profession and he does enjoy it. He also enjoys bringing pleasure to others, and fulfilling their desires, whatever they may be. She is nervous about all the weird things that come with sex, but he comforts her and guides her tenderly through the process. It is a ravishing one-one-one experience with Thompson & McCormack and they're endlessly captivating to listen to and watch. A magnificent, comforting, supportive film that can act as a guide to those who have struggled with enjoying sex. It is the kind of film that can cause a revolution in the minds of those that may need one.
This little film is one huge step forward in sex positive cinema. I honestly want to recommend it to everyone, no matter how experienced they may be with sex already. Everyone can learn something from this. It's an empowering work of art that is a reminder to love yourself, explore your body, and love your body. Of course it helps that the man they cast in this to play Leo Grande is one of the most attractive Irish guys ever put on screen. But it also helps that Emma Thompson is as phenomenal as she is in this role. The intricacies of her reactions, her winces, her nervous ticks, all of it is important in this character. Because the more believable she is, the easier it will be for anyone to see themselves in her, connect with her, and go through this process of exploration right along with her. Most of all, this film opens up the conversation about sex and intimacy in an extraordinarily healthy way, and we should be all encouraged to discuss it as frankly as they do in this.