A middle-aged woman develops an unusually intimate relationship with her online escort in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, an initially lightweight, sexually frank comedy that reveals some intimate layers of depth by its finale. This comedy-drama from director Sophie Hyde (Animals, 52 Tuesdays) doesn’t seem to offer much beyond the obvious at first, but rewards viewers that stick with it.
In what is essentially a two-person, three-scene play, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande stars Emma Thompson as Nancy Stokes, a retired schoolteacher and recent(ish) widow who decides to do something unusual in her later years: explore her sexuality after having a single partner, her late husband, for her entire life.
With limited options, an eagerness to keep things on the down-low, and a keen sense on getting what she wants, Nancy turns to the world of online escorts – where she finds the titular Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack), a no-nonsense professional.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande opens with the first meeting between Leo and Nancy, in a discreet mid-range hotel. The nervous Nancy fumbles her way through the rendezvous, but Leo, proficient in these matters, is able to talk her through it.
A second act adds narrative tension into the mix. Satisfied with the first encounter, Nancy invites Leo back to the same hotel room for round two: but this time she has a list of areas she’d like to explore. She’s also done some amateur research into who Leo really is, something that finally shakes the escort’s calm demeanor.
A third act brings the pair back to the hotel for some resolution, though this time they share their truly intimate thoughts over a cup of coffee instead of in the bedroom.
Across its first two acts, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande’s lightweight Britcom sensibilities result in an inauthentic, almost disingenuous portrayal of sex and sexuality. Despite the nature of the proceedings, the film feels almost as timid as Nancy in discussing the intimate details. But it slowly gets there: by the film’s final scenes, it has earned a certain power with its unabashed honesty.
Like the movie itself, Thompson’s performance runs the gamut from broad comedy to quiet introspection; initially overplaying the role, there’s no denying the authenticity that seeps into the character over time, and the rawness of Good Luck to You, Leo Grande’s final moments.
McCormack gives a commanding performance as the titular Leo Grande, but despite being the only other character in the movie, he doesn’t have nearly as much to work with as Thompson. While the second act threatens to give his character an arc, it’s back to business as usual by the third.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande has the feel of something made during strict Covid protocols, with a limited number of people on screen and (probably) on set. But it also doesn’t feel like the filmmakers sacrificed anything to get the movie made. While it can be initially off-putting, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande ultimately rewards patient viewers.