Director: Sophie Hyde
Cast: Emma Thompson, Daryl McCormack, Isabella Laughland
Runtime: 1 hr 37 mins
Rating: R21 (Sexual Scenes and Mature Theme)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 2 February 2023
Synopsis: Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson), a retired school teacher and widow, is yearning for some adventure, some human connection, and some sex. Good sex. Whilst her husband Robert provided a home, a family, something resembling a life, good sex was never on offer. But he’s gone now, and Nancy has a plan: she will find adventure with a sex worker named Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack). In an anonymous hotel room Nancy greets Leo. He looks every bit as good as his picture, but what Nancy wasn’t expecting was conversation as well as fornication. Leo has a view on everything, and though he may not always tell the truth, Nancy finds she likes him. And he likes her. With growing sexual confidence, Nancy starts to relax. Over the course of their rendezvous, the power dynamics shift and their well-worn masks begin to slip.
Racked with self-doubt, the retired religious education teacher, a widow in her 60s decidedly pays to seek copulation but ends up discovering more than just intimacy in the least anticipated place.
Concluding that life is indeed too short not to experience her first Big O, Nancy Stokes who has been living 31 unfulfilled years of matrimony where missionary was the staple position, resolves to explore what life has to offer with an alluring sex worker. With a specially-curated bucket list of sexual activities to check off, will the empathetic sex worker fulfil her carnal desires, or is there actually more to this arrangement?
The British dramedy starring the homegrown Hollywood heavyweight, Emma Thompson and Irish actor, Daryl McCormack, had its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
This tastefully-done, refreshing narrative with a 63-year-old taking centre stage for the first time in what seems like ever, feels akin to a welcome break after the deluge of recent festive numbers. You may recall McCormack, who was cherry-picked by the double Oscar winner herself, from the fifth season of Peaky Blinders as Isaiah Jesus, an associate of the Shelby family.
With a powerful script and competent direction comes the debunking of allegory that sex work is rather seedy and abysmal. The loquacious 97-minute plot that is far from any usual slapstick comedy offers absolutely relatable comedic sequences and countersigns legalised sex work to be part of human healthcare that is often swept under the rug of shame and oblivion.
Scenes such as the ones where Stokes dances away her insecurities while the very witty, compassionate and graceful Grande makes her feel as though she is the only existence that matters in the entire world and, of course, the full frontal surprise at the end heavily endorses self-love and self-gratification while stripping away the age-old anathemas ascribed to it.
Be it a 16 or 60-year-old, most may seek validation outside of them. Good Luck to you, Leo Grande, the sex-positive chronicle serves as a reminder that anyone, immaterial of age, gender and all other identity markers, could be a Nancy at some point in their life.
The hotel room setting that may come off as somewhat claustrophobic gets compensated for with the duo’s powerful acting and thought-evoking dialogues. Thompson and McCormack’s thespian umphs scream of a career-defining performance. With Love Actually’s Karen seamlessly swerving from being Nanny McPhee to Sense & Sensibility’s Elinor Dashwood (all while being Nancy Stokes), McCormack certainly finds no qualms about matching energies, quip for quip, with his charm and elegance as the titular character.
The critically-acclaimed film that offers zing and authenticity fetches BAFTA Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for the virtuosic actress’s most vulnerable and exposing role. Catch the phenomenal duo hailing from two different filmic timelines come together and witness pillow talks morph into something above and beyond just carnality.
(An intensely poignant yet subversive two-hander that tethers on emotional nudity and erotic awakening of the feminine consciousness)
Review by Asha Gizelle Mariadas