Coming to streaming exclusively on HULU from director Sophie Hyde and Searchlight Pictures is a stellar piece of storytelling with GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE.
Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson) is a retired schoolteacher and widow who is about to grade herself outside the classroom. In a hotel room she anxious awaits a knock at the door. On the other side is the very young and handsome Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack) who enters the hotel room with a smile.
As their conversation unfolds, it becomes clear that Leo is a sex worker and Nancy is his newest client. Sitting down to get comfortable, Nancy begins rattling off her sexual ‘to-do’ list of things she has always wanted to do. Her nervousness is skyrocketing as she tries to talk herself into things as well as talking herself out of them.
Leo is very patient and shares his wit and humor with her trying to get Nancy to just relax. The only thing that seems to work is to just let the words flow. She talks about herself, where she has been, married life, children and her life since. Making it clear this would be their only meeting, Nancy does not keep her word.
They meet again and their conversations become even more intense as Nancy has questions and Leo is good at working around the answers. Each meeting becomes more intense as the reality and fantasy lines begin to blur and a line is crossed.
Nancy discovers who she truly is, and Leo discovers forgiveness and maybe even understanding like he has never known before.
Thompson as Nancy may have just found a character that is more real and relatable than anything I have ever seen on film. As Nancy, the viewer is given the thoughts, impressions, insecurities, humor, truths and realities of what is under the clothing of this older woman. Her story made me laugh, tear up, laugh some more, nod in agreement and wonder if writer Katy Brand has been secretly living in my head all these years. Watching Thompson’s ‘Nancy’ unravel is a marvel and I plan to watch this film again.
McCormack as Leo is clear on what he does for a living and does not offer any apologies to anyone. What he does do from the beginning is gently challenge everything Nancy has known with humor and patience. McCormack gives his character an ease that, at first, made me a tad uncomfortable but the more Leo spoke, the more I went along for the, well, ride! McCormack is just pure delight from start to finish and I cannot imagine anyone else playing opposite Thompson for this story.
Searchlight Pictures is responsible for such films as SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, THE SHAPE OF WATER and THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING MISSOURI. They have an extensive film library as well as documentaries, scripted series, and limited series. For more information, please visit www.searchlightpictures.com.
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GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE will now be forever on my list of films that should be seen again and again. It should also be talked about, and the word spread to ‘women of a certain age’. Thompson grasps that part of the story and gives us every range of human emotion about issues that seem to still not be addressed.
Her body insecurities top the list and by the end of the film if you are not cheering for Nancy and Thompson then you do not understand the character at all. Watching Nancy unwrap her life in front of a total stranger, she brings out the life that has gone past and the need to experience it all. I am not only speaking of the sex, but of the connection, not necessarily that of Leo but Nancy connecting to herself.
In the midst of Nancy’s journey, Leo is also dealing with issues that he has managed to hide from his own family. McCormack exudes charm and wit, but he also let’s slip occasionally Leo’s own insecurities. Watching these two strangers bring out the craziness in each other is just a firework display of brilliance.
Being the only two characters for 99.9% of the film is an undertaking for any film but Thompson and McCormack make it look effortless. Shot in a hotel room that looks like every other hotel room allows the viewer to never be distracted by literally anything. Instead, the focus remains on Nancy, Leo and why they are in the hotel room.
Of course, from the get-go, the main reason they are meeting is clear, but this story is about so much more. Thank you Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack for the love, laughter, tears and realties because we all have a story to tell.
Director Hyde has stepped into territory that does not get enough light and that is a woman of a certain age believing that there is nothing left when the wife and mother duties are done as well as our bodies hiding in shame instead of exploring love. The expectation that a woman’s worth diminishes with age gets a swift kick in the grade book once Nancy takes ahold of her life. The final scene is something to be cherished forever.
Just a beautiful, beautiful film.
In the end – it is about waking up every part of our being!