A frequent, mind-numbing topic of conversation in cinema-minded social media circles is the recurrent decrying of sex scenes in movies as an unnecessary feature to the telling of a good story. As howlingly retrograde as it is to suggest that no plot is ever helped by the inclusion of a sex scene, it is also a position that smacks of anti-art philosophy – that a film is only a method of deploying a plot, that the expression that is offered therein is simply a means to an end. To that point, all art – and by extension, all great cinema – is a reflection of life, and sex is a huge part of a great majority of people’s lives. It’s a feature of a troubling trend toward prudishness and sex-negative thinking in our artistic and our social spaces. Much has been written about the absolute sexlessness of our modern cinema – clogged with beautiful, chiselled superheroes, each as blandly attractive and lacking in eroticism as the next. Cinema is a great channel for our erotic desires and fears, and a great place to talk meaningfully about sex. Into this void arrives Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, a film that hardly breaks any formal or aesthetic ground but which nevertheless feels downright refreshing for its openhearted sexiness, and its rarely explored perspectives.
Set almost entirely in a single hotel room, the latest feature from Sophie Hyde is a refreshingly frank and open-hearted two-hander, confronting issues of sex work and ageism with honesty and humour. An actors-forward film, the main drawcard is two remarkable performances from Emma Thompson and newcomer Daryl McCormack.
Emma Thompson, a revered British actress probably most widely known for matronly, motherly roles in cozy dramas and comedies like Love, Actually and Saving Mr Banks, is a bolt-from-the-blue casting choice here as Nancy, a teacher, mother and widow who has never experienced good sex. Hiring a male sex worker named Leo Grande online (Daryl McCormack, effortlessly charming), Nancy begins to explore her long-repressed desires, with the help of the endlessly patient and understanding Leo. What emerges is a fascinating interplay between two actors – one a beloved figure of the acting community, the other a newcomer of sorts – in an age-gap relationship rarely captured on-screen and all the more delightful for its general sense of matter-of-factness about the matters it discusses. It’s a film with a clear purpose – to pull away the barriers that stop people of all ages from leading healthy, active sex lives, and to enlighten those with regressive ideas about sex work in the modern age – but rarely does the film feel preachy or overly didactic. The whole thing is well-corralled by director Sophie Hyde, whose work has always shone most brightly in the drawing of fine, layered performances from actors (as with her previous effort, the undersung Animals). Formally and aesthetically, it is somewhat lacking – more clearly a work of strong writing and performance than a rigorous directorial vision. Indeed, much of the film struggles to overcome the ‘filmed play’ notions of the crackling dialogue and single-setting location. However, when the performances and writing are as strong as they are here, it is easy to be lulled into the tension and chemistry of the two fragile, complex humans on-screen, and be ultimately moved by the heights they reach together.
In cinemas now.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
Movie title: Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (Hyde, 2022)
Movie description: Set almost entirely in a single hotel room, the latest feature from Sophie Hyde is a refreshingly frank and open-hearted two-hander, confronting issues of sex work and ageism with honesty and humour. An actors-forward film, the main drawcard is two remarkable performances from Emma Thompson and newcomer Daryl McCormack.
Date published: August 18, 2022
Country: United Kingdom
Author: Katy Brand
Director(s): Sophie Hyde
Actor(s): Emma Thompson, Daryl McCormack
Genre: Comedy, Drama