Review by John P. Harvey.
We learn at the outset of this quiet movie that Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson) has hired a sex worker, Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack), in order to find something missing from her 31 years of marriage: sexual pleasure. She’d also like to experience variations on the missionary position.
Though that may sound like a setup for something graphic and shallow, what in fact develops is far more interesting: a gradual opening of hearts — willingly on Nancy’s part, unwillingly on Leo’s; an eventual coming to terms with the truth of the conflicts inherent in Nancy’s views and attitudes; and an integration between Leo’s internal history and his external professionalism.
Both leads’ performances are superlative, and in facial expressions alone they convey even more than they do in words. Thompson’s deep acting experience, though, shows in her ability to convey with great subtlety a full gamut of the uncertainties, anxieties, and mortification that Nancy faces, having decided, after a virtually lifelong experience of a dutiful, unfulfilled wife and schoolteacher, to risk the potential humiliations of hiring a stranger in order to have these most private of experiences.
The film contains many moments of humour and many of surprising candour; but the overarching experience that we share with Nancy throughout is her journey of courageous reevaluation of her self worth, her morals, her completeness as a woman, and her standing in relation to others.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande probably won’t radically transform perspectives on sexual relations, sex work, or marriage; but it provides a moving example of how two considerate adults can help heal each other, and for that alone it may be worth your time.