Written by: Katy Brand
Starring: Emma Thompson, Daryl McCormack, Isabella Laughland
Sex comes as a natural part of existence for humans that cannot be escaped other than for those who consider themselves asexual. It also can come with so much shame because of the connotations attached to it on a societal level that makes an element of living meant to be personal something to be scared of. This sense of shame gets seen through the relationship between a woman and a sex worker in such a beautiful and empowering manner that embraces it all.
Having never had an orgasm in her life, Nancy (Emma Thompson) hires Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack) as a sex worker to teach her the ins and outs of sex. She comes prepared with a list of all things they will do in the hope to see what all the fuss is about and getting it done.
The shame felt by Nancy in her upbringing surrounding sex is certainly not a unique one. Simply ask any Catholic or Christian out there. Anything done outside of the rigid parameters of intercourse for procreation in a specific way has been classified as sinful, which conflicts with what people naturally want to do and how they express themselves sexually. This creates this boxing up of any real pleasure and seeing the act as more of something that just needs to get done and not a natural part of the human lived experience. There are essays and dissertations that can dive into all of the minutiae of this issue, but it sets the foundation of Nancy as a character and informs much of what she wants to accomplish.
It makes sense based on her upbringing that she would have never orgasmed as getting to that point of pleasure comes mentally as it does physically and she has never been in the right mindset due to her shame involved in the whole. Hiring Leo Grande for this initially occurs, in the same way, someone would hire a therapist, except this one would be more hands-on with their approach if you catch my drift. The impersonal nature of this transaction makes sense for what she wants to accomplish, but the friendship that blossoms between them ultimately shows the heart of this film and releases the inner beauty of it all.
While this film navigates in the idea of sex being shameful in a general sense, another arena comes from this occurring with a woman of Emma Thompson’s age. Having her lead this film comes with even more power as she has always been associated with elegance and regality, which makes the sheer vulnerability of taking on this role that would be so revealing on multiple levels all the more admirable. Women past a certain age are expected to shrivel up and not be seen as sexual creatures any longer, which certainly does should not be the case, which makes the beauty this film has to offer in this regard all the more touching.
Comedically this film strives in the awkward moments in how Leo Grande knows this profession in and out along with how matter-of-fact Nancy proves to be throughout the initial stages of the process. The opening list of things alone where she lists every single position she wants to experience and Daryl McCormack’s reaction to it all allows for the awkwardness to be incredibly comedic. Shame goes out the door and the nervousness turns into laughter in this feature in wonderful ways, which certainly gets helped by the two actors having a tremendous rapport with each other.
This becomes especially important with the majority of the film taking place in a hotel room where the two talk to each other and begin to go down the list of the sexual positions she wants to try. This confined space creates a sense of intimacy and privacy a story like this requires seeing as the vulnerability on display occurs in more than just the physical but also the emotional as inadvertently begins to let more of herself be discovered by Leo Grande. The fake names they initially exchanged begin not to matter and their relationship flourishes because of it.
Filled with so much love, patience, and grace, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande presents such a lovely viewing experience. It shows Emma Thompson in a way we have never seen her before and does so with a level of vulnerability based on her age that should not feel empowering in a perfect world and yet it does. It provides a platform for Daryl McCormack to stand out in this role and he absolutely shines in portraying this almost angelic presence in the film. He proves to be the perfect sounding board for Nancy’s expression of insecurities while also having his own issues to work through. It all culminates in such a moving and loving film that warms the heart and answers very difficult questions it confronts about sexual guilt with so much honesty.