The Sundance Film Festival almost always has a sex comedy or two in their lineup. Sundance also usually has a two-hander in its midst where a pair of characters just talk. However, they don’t usually coalesce, but it has here in 2022. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a mix of good English humor, a quest for good sex, and an exploration of some complicated characters. If not for a turn in the back end that feels out of place, this would have been one of the festival’s best titles. Settling for being just a good movie with a great central turn is no small potatoes, though.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a showcase for Emma Thompson, and of course she deserves it. If you’ve wanted to see her embrace womanhood in a new way, that’s on display here. It also gives her a younger foil, leading to some solid laughs. The turns towards drama and seriousness aren’t as smooth or effective as the lighter moments, but the product being presented here is one you’re going to be charmed a great deal by.
Nancy Stokes (Thompson) is a widow who hasn’t been touched in years. Even while married, she did not know good sex, so she’s decided to fix that. To that end, she’s hired an escort to help. When Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack) arrives at her hotel room door, she’s immediately intimidated. In fact, the more charming and kind he seems, the harder it seems for her to get in the mood. This first meeting is a feeling out process, in more ways than one.
As Nancy and Leo talk (as well as subsequently continue meeting for sessions), we learn more about them. Some of the revelations are expected, while others are not. Of course, their relationship will eventually be tested, but seeing where Nancy ends up, as compared to where she starts out, will bring a smile to your face. The stakes aren’t high, but they also don’t have to be.
Emma Thompson is wonderful here. We never get to see her be sexual, and while she’s playing a repressed character, she gets to also be sexy at times. In particular, one moment towards the end is quietly stunning. Thompson is always great, so this is no exception, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see an Oscar campaign evolve for her at some point when this one gets released. Daryl McCormack has great chemistry with her too, so even if his character is a bit more stock, he still leaves an impression. This is almost exclusively a two-hander, but Isabella Laughland has a small supporting role.
Director Sophie Hyde and scribe Katy Brand make Good Luck to You, Leo Grande an appreciation for Thompson, and rightly so. Brand’s script is at its best in the first half, while Hyde comes alive in the second half. Truly, they make a good team. Kudos to them for one specific shot at the end I won’t reveal, but it says so much without any words. A bit tighter pacing wouldn’t have hurt, but it’s a film that’s simply not in much of a hurry.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande will certainly charm you. It’s another low-key comedy at Sundance, but one with a genuine sexiness. Where it goes won’t surprise you, but watching McCormack and Thompson verbally spar is a definite pleasure. When this one leaves the virtual Park City and goes into release, this is one to watch out for. Hell, it might even have an awards campaign in its future.