Good Luck to You, Leo Grande Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
Emma Thompson & Daryl McCormack are terrific in this very vulnerable story, largely thanks to the well-written, amusing script!
Genre: Comedy / Drama
Director: Sophie Hyde
Cast: Emma Thompson, Daryl McCormack & Isabella Laughland.
Run Time: 97 min.
US Release: 17 June 2022 (Hulu)
UK Release: 17 June 2022
German Release: 14 July 2022
Thanks to stellar reviews that kept popping up on the net, I heard about this British dramedy. Having been living in England long enough and knowing how many people react to the topic of intimacy, I was intrigued by this little independent flick from Australian director Hyde. Confessions need to be made now; I haven’t seen any of her work prior to this, yet after leaving theatres, I am very curious about the two feature-length films she directed because Good Luck to You Leo Grande surprised me!
Middle-aged widow Nancy Stokes is longing for some adventure, genuine human connection but most of all, sex, really good sex. This is where professional Leo Grande comes into play. Together they find some surprising connections.
The screenplay was written by British comedian Katy Brand, with principal photography taking place over the span of 19 days. The story is pretty straightforward, being contained for ninety-per-cent of its runtime in a hotel room setting. However, it never feels claustrophobic, rather intimate, as if being invited to watch how the scenario plays out. Broken up between four meetings, the first session between Nancy and Leo takes up the largest portion of the runtime. While that first act perfectly sets up the characters, including their moralities, it also drags a little. Though once past that, the movie sets viewers up for an emotional rollercoaster ride.
Technically not an original idea, the way the subject was approached was refreshingly new. The different chapters felt like acts in a play, while the thematic at hand is an important one that should be talked about more openly. Sex is an ordinary urge every living being has and one of the most natural actions. It was religion that first demonised it as a form of population control. Still, the truth is, there is nothing shameful about sex - in fact, it can be psychologically and physically purifying.
The script goes a few steps further, tackling the issue of bodily self-acceptance. We all have parts of our body that we don’t like. Some can be worked on through sports, for example; others are more of a permanent matter. It is impeccable that we shouldn’t forget to be proud of our looks and feel comfortable in our bodies, especially in these times when the beauty industries are setting impossible standards on the perfect body. We all have those insecurities, no matter how old we get, but we should be proud of our appearance in the end!
The dialogue is among the film's most vital selling points. The two characters' conversations are both highly personal and intriguing. The discussion of morality about the sex trade and if it should be made legal as a public service does provoke critical thinking.
Two-time Academy Award winner Emma Thompson stars as Nancy Stoke, a retired religion teacher with highly conservative views about the topic of sex. Nancy is depressed, not only about the look of her body but also about choices she made early in life that she now regrets. Thompson encapsulates those sentiments well, feeling conflicted about what she should do next. Having always followed the rules, she is yearning for some adventure in life, though it takes the character of Leo to slowly tear down her wall of apprehension by giving her a new outlook on life and herself.
Relative newcomer Daryl McCormack plays Leo Grande with perfection. He sells the suaveness of his character, who feels comfortable in his body as well as his job. McCormack holds his own against Thompson well, especially once revelations are made further into the plot, forcing his persona to open up and become emotional. Leo is portrayed as a sexual psychoanalyst, helping his customers overcome their shortcomings.
The chemistry between both actors is fantastic! According to interviews, Thompson and McCormack got to know one another well before shooting, to build on their comfort with each other. It shows that apart from the body language, it is primarily the looks they exchange that sell their connection!
The camera work for this British independent movie might be straightforward but is used to full effect! The plot feels more like a play, and the cinematography utilises the hotel room as a stage. The close-ups of the characters capture facial emotion well, while selling the intimacy, focusing on exploring the body when they touch each other. Wide shots are used for bodily language. The set-up of different angles gets the most out of comedic/dramatic moments.
As far as it comes to effects, these are very limited. It mostly comes down to make-up and wardrobe that reflects well on the characters.
Verdict: This sexual drama, directed by Sophie Hyde and written by Katy Brand, has a surprising amount of humour while raising the critical issue of bodily self-acceptance and the beneficence of sex in human psychology. The dialogues are intriguing, reaching a stunning depth when talking about controversial subjects, such as sex as a work trade or the difficulties that motherhood can cause. The magnificent conversations are brought to life thanks to the brilliant acting of Emma Thompson and newcomer Daryl McCormack, who are relatable in their roles, yet also give their characters a lot of sensitivity. The cinematography is simple but effective. If there is anything to complain about, it is that the first act takes a little longer to get into the matter. All in all, this is a brilliant indie flick that deserves a 7.5 out of 10.
This cleverly written story touches upon a subject most of us might feel uncomfortable with. The secret is, there is nothing dirty or shameful about sex! I recommend seeing this in theatres; it is worth the money and time!