“Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” will probably get attention for Emma Thompson’s big nude scene.
Coming near the end of the film, it isn’t a salacious way to draw an audience but a woman’s frank assessment of her own body.
It’s unnecessary, really, but it does put a button on the subtle, heartfelt story.
Nancy Stokes (Thompson), a widowed teacher, decides to experience the kind of sexual fulfillment she never got from her marriage.
Hiring sex worker Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack), she presents a list of the things she’d like to do.
Hoping to check them off, she realizes what’s missing isn’t a catalog of sexual positions but a person she can relate to.
In a series of sessions in a hotel room (a rather swanky hotel at that), the two talk about subjects she kept from others. She’s very much a flower about to blossom.
Leo, meanwhile, is the horticulturist, nurturing his plant.
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McCormack shows great compassion and understanding and, considering the sex workers we’ve seen in other films, unending sophistication.
He’s also much younger than his partner and that sets up a dynamic that either brings out more in her or represses much in him.
When she gets too nosy, Leo shuts down and tries to hide his own insecurities.
Directed by Sophie Hyde, “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” talks about issues many people avoid. Either they figure too much time has passed or they’re just not interested. Clearly, a different bond could form but Hyde doesn’t attempt another relationship.
Thompson has all of Nancy’s insecurities firmly in hand. She lets them drip out – in interesting ways. She comes to life when he catches her off guard. His methods are simple. He’s not trying to be someone he’s not. But he puts her in situations that promise security.
While others drift in and out of “Leo Grande,” the focus is on the two. McCormack and Thompson could do this on stage and be just as effective.
On film, Hyde can go in for closeups that tell plenty. Thompson has perfected the art of insecurity; McCormack shows great promise as Great Britain’s next actor to watch.
Together, they’re a super pair.
Thompson, in fact, could ride this to another Oscar nomination. While that nude scene helps her find Nancy’s confidence, she has done such superior ground work, it’s not the clincher, just the reinforcement.