Nancy Stokes is a 55-year-old widow played believably by 63-year-old, two-time Academy Award winner, Emma Thompson. Leo Grande is played by Daryl McCormack from “Peaky Blinders.” Thompson looks fabulous and is remarkable in the part while he, perhaps surprisingly from someone so new to the business, holds his own with a gifted actor who has been performing longer than McCormack has been alive.
The two together light up the screen with intensity, which is good as they’re all you get outside of a few small scenes. The movie is a little over an hour and a half long and has only two central characters. It plays a bit like a stage production. We should be so lucky to see this live. The film is delivered in “Meetings” rather than “Acts” but feels much the same. In a hotel room she procures, they meet for the first time. We’re not quite sure what’s going on, but it doesn’t take long to pick up on things before they’re finally revealed.
Nancy, a sexually frustrated former schoolteacher, stammers as she begins to speak to Leo, a young man she finds to be very good-looking. He’s a sex worker there to help her with any fantasy she may have or just to talk. Sensing her apprehension, Leo takes control almost immediately. She tells him she just wants sex, but when he tries to move forward with things, Nancy begins to get nervous, speaking about anything other than sex to slow the situation down and avoid why she’s ultimately there.
She confesses to feeling like a pervert hiring him and worries about how her body must look to him. He tells her she’s beautiful, something she doubts is true. She then asks how old his oldest client has been, shocked at the answer.
She also confesses that she has never had an orgasm. She gets Leo out of the burden of her orgasm by announcing he needn’t waste his time trying to give her one. Nancy being uninterested in her own pleasure seems to bother him some. Not saying so, his eyes reveal that he had looked forward to the challenge.
After some time of getting to know him, Nancy is still distressed. She begins to overthink the situation. She reaches into her head so far that she pulls out what seems to be the inner nature of being regretful for having booked him. Her feelings of misgivings concern the compassionate Leo, thinking that his client must find him unattractive if she doesn’t want to continue. However, this is very much not the case.
The conversation continues and she lets him know she has two children. Nancy divulges that her children hadn’t come by way of a lot of lovemaking between her and her now-deceased husband.
Sex with him was very planned and quite bland. Her sexual past has only been with her husband and it was always the same; very dull, which is why she wants to be with Leo, someone who will help her discover what she has been missing her entire life.
What she finds in Leo is a connection she thought impossible. She likes to touch him and be touched by him. She wants to know she’s in his thoughts when the door closes behind him as he is in hers.
Their conversations become more intimate. Nancy speaks more about her life outside of the hotel room, asking Leo who he is, “out there” in an attempt to find a friend.
Leo reminds her that everything between them is about her, not him. This is his job. The person she hires for these sessions is not her pal, something hard for Nancy to swallow.
The script by Katy Brand is absorbing and sharp, and how director Sophie Hyde handles the enormous characters created for her actors is effective. The way she deals with the challenge of telling her audience about Nancy’s sexual awakening is accomplished and very carefully done.
The end is impressive and affirms how she has found sexual empowerment and what that means for Nancy’s overall confidence.
It also unveiled that Leo has blossomed even though he behaved as if he had nothing to learn.
See this for the acting. See this for the skill and depth. See this for the reality of it all. This is one not to miss.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
Directed by: Sophie Hyde
Written by: Katy Brand
Starring: Emma Thompson, Daryl McCormack
Rated: R *for Nudity, Some Language and Sexual Content
Run Time: 1h 37m
Genres: Drama, Comedy
Distributed by: Searchlight Pictures