The sexual coming-of-age stories that dominate our culture tend to centre around the discoveries of teenagers, despite the fact that many of us don’t grasp the nature of our desires until much later (if at all). Heterosexual women brought up in an era that taught them to prioritise male pleasure can easily end up in a deferent relationship with their partner.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande tells the story of Nancy (Emma Thompson), a 55-year-old widow who hires a gorgeous 20-something sex worker, Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack) to give her what her husband did not in 33 years of marriage: an orgasm. For – like 10-15 per cent percent of women – she has never had one.
The film unfolds over multiple meetings in the upmarket Sheffield hotel room that Nancy hires by the hour. There is a spritzing of sex and nudity, however, the film is dominated by verbal sparring as Nancy’s anxieties cause her to throw obstacles in the way of the services she has procured. Leo is an assured presence, adept at diffusing his client’s insecurities with wit and warmth. At its best, the script by comedian Katy Brand, fizzes with screwball energy.
Front-and-centre is the message that older women are sexual beings. After Leo compliments the sexiness of celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, Nancy says, “I was waiting for you to say, ‘for her age.’ When a woman is over 42, people usually say, ‘She’s sexy for her age.’”
“No, she’s empirically sexy,” counters Leo.
Although the theatrical set-up means that the film veers into feeling contrived – in sharp contrast to director Sophie Hyde’s kinetic previous film, Animals – it has a radical educational potential not usually found in mainstream portrayals of female sexual pleasure.