Released: 18th August
Seen: 7th November
The two-hander is a fascinating thing in film. Placing a pair of actors in a room and letting the conversation between them carry the film from start to finish is something very few can actually pull off. There’s a not-insignificant risk to it, it can make the work feel stagey and if the two actors lack chemistry or drop the ball for even so much as a second it can all fall apart. However, if the leads have chemistry and are able to keep up with each other and the script is good enough then a two-hander can be something truly magical… Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is something truly magical.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande takes place over the course four meetings between a retired school teacher, Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson) and a young male prostitute going by the name Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack). Over the course of each of those meetings the two of them talk about their lives, their desires and what’s been lacking in their lives. Nancy, still somewhat pent up and unsure about being desirable slowly opens up to Leo, who in turn opens up to Nancy up to a certain point. Slowly over the course of the meetings their relationship grows stronger, but the question of boundaries might be the thing that causes a problem for them in the long run.
Taking place almost entirely within a single hotel room (with the exception of the 4th meeting which takes place in a cafe in the same hotel), the absolute miracle of Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is that is somehow doesn’t feel like a rejected stage play that got turned into a film. Through a combination of the film making skill on display and the tone of the material, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande never ends up feeling like a stage play that just got put on camera (although, for the record, it would probably be a fantastic stage play if it were to be adapted as such). The tone and brisk pace of the movie is captivating, allowing the performances by the two leads to shine like nothing else.
It’s probably fair to say that there isn’t an on screen couple in the 2020’s that has as much raw chemistry as Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack, it’s absolutely electric from the moment the two of them enter the main room where we spend most of Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. When they’re just talking there’s a genuine sweetness in every little moment, an awkward energy that only seems to bring them closer and make the moments of intimacy that much more intense. It’s a true back and forth, there’s playful flirting and awkwardness that just makes them incredibly likeable, you end up being completely pulled into their relationship so when inevitable drama happens, it’s heartbreaking beyond belief.
The entire story of Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is an exploration of sexual awakening, learning about your limits and body positivity and every element of those ideas is wonderfully handled. They aren’t just paid lip service to, they’re talked about in depth and given plenty of gravitas. There’s discussion in here about the act of prostitution and the strange laws surrounding it, of the idea of consent and boundaries and all of it is either heartfelt or hilarious, depending on how far we are into every meeting. With four meetings in total they all have this very calm and clever rise and fall, each one elevating to a glorious crescendo before we start again and get even more great laughs and heartfelt drama.
Making this work are the impeccable performances by Emma and Daryl who put everything on the line in order to make sure they deliver some fantastic performances. To the shock of no one, Emma Thompson is a deft hand at delivering a line but there’s a glorious reservation in everything she does and watching her character slowly let down her wall and embrace her seemingly forgotten sexual power is an absolute delight. It’s never easy to match someone as insanely talented as Emma Thompson but Daryl McCormack does it almost effortlessly, creating a character that feels so charming and caring while also clearly holding something back. You get why he is the one that can break through years of self-doubt, why someone would open up to him and why he’s so good at what he does.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is just an undeniably charming film that’s sexy, sex positive and sexually liberating. It’s an endless source of hearty laughter that only grows the more the film goes on but throughout every chuckle there’s a powerful beating heart that runs from start to finish, having the audience laughing and weeping all at the same time. A sex comedy that’s not rude or crude but deals with the actual realities of being a sexual person at an older age is insanely hard to come by., Fortunately Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is here just waiting patiently to please you like nothing else.