Good Luck to You, Leo Grande Review

I remember about a month ago while scrolling through my Twitter feed, I came across an article about this movie. Specifically, it was about how Emma Thomson came to make some of the decisions she made on screen in this film. I know I’m usually averse to spoilers in my reviews, but I feel like talking about this film would be impossible without discussing some of the integral plot points, so here goes; this article specifically dealt with Thomson’s decision to appear nude in this film.

At the age of 63, the beloved actress does indeed bare all in this film, but it was not this aspect of the film that drew me in, but rather its heartfelt tone that added surprising depth to a narrative that could have easily seemed seedy.

I’d be lying if I said that this fact didn’t intrigue me after reading it. Why did she choose this time? Was it merely a stunt to get people talking about the film? Or was she perhaps wanting to prove something to herself? Who knows, maybe it’s all of the above, a combination of them, or none at all. In the end, it isn’t even the most interesting thing about the film.

The story focuses on Thomson’s character, a fifty-something widow who has never had an orgasm, who hires a younger sex worker to explore sexuality more thoroughly than in her supposedly boring life thus far, all the while trying to find out more about the man she has hired.

I had no expectations of Good Luck to You, Leo Grande before going into the screening. Besides the aforementioned article and a brief trailer, I knew very little about it besides the fact that it featured a national treasure sans clothes. I feel like I must commend Thomson on her courage in agreeing to this potentially disastrous move for her career, it shows a great deal of bravery for someone, especially a woman in modern society, to show as much skin as she did at her age. It does wonders for the long-conceived Hollywood notions of older women, who are often marginalised after their fortieth birthday (or perhaps even earlier) and shows that it is possible to be sexy in your sixties.

I don’t want you to go away from this review thinking that this film is just a skin flick, however. It might just be the most surprising film I’ve seen in quite some time. So surprising that it has pulled me out of my critical hibernation through sheer will of wanting to talk about just how great it is. It may well even be my favourite film of the year so far.

I have a soft spot for a story that takes place in one place between very few characters. I think it’s a true test of a writer to show they can make something interesting out of very little resources. You can consider that test well and truly passed here. Even though the story isn’t quite confined to just one room, the majority of it is, with very fleeting glimpses of the world outside the character’s hotel room. The characters are what really carry the movie too, from the off, it is obvious that there is more to them than meets the eye, and details about them are revealed throughout the runtime, in a perfectly paced show of character-based screenwriting. Nothing is given away too soon, or too easily, it is perfectly judged and timed to keep you wanting to know more about these characters. Even when the final credits roll around, you still feel like there is more to know, but you don’t feel short-changed, it all adds to the mystique of the character, and their aura as well-rounded and well-realised characters.

It also helps that the core of the movie is so recognisable and relatable. We have all felt underwhelmed and unfulfilled by life at some point, even if that feeling isn’t in the bedroom. We recognise those feelings of disappointment and longing; they are universal human traits which don’t have to be viewed exclusively through a sexual lens. All of Nancy’s (Thomson) problems don’t just stem from her bedroom problems, but her life in general, which seems so grey when contrasted against her notions of Leo’s (Daryl McCormack) life which seems so exotic to her, yet beyond that surface level of excitement lies a great amount of sadness and regret of his own. Which, once again, is judged perfectly, and revealed piecemeal as and when the plot demands it, and we leave him knowing just enough to identify with him, but not enough to betray the character’s much-needed sense of anonymity.

The two lead performances are worthy of mention too as, without performers of this calibre, the characters and their struggles may well have fallen flat. We all know how great Emma Thomson can be, but that doesn’t stop her from reminding us at every opportunity. She’s simply incredible in this film, delivering an electric performance that oozes charisma, whilst simultaneously showing vulnerability and flaws which makes her character so well-rounded. She is perfectly cast alongside relative newcomer Daryl McCormack. They share a simply irresistible chemistry which fizzes and pops more than a marriage between Coke and Mentos. They play off each other like they have been starring together for years, so much so that they make you forget about the potentially controversial age gap between them. It simply becomes inconsequential the moment they share the screen.

While the film might not get pulses racing with heart-stopping action like other current cinema offerings; it does offer a lovely character-driven narrative that will surprise you with its tender and heartfelt core, and wonderful character development. Alongside a marvellous pair of leading performances, positively dripping in chemistry and charisma, it all comes together as one of this year’s most pleasant surprise packages. I went in with no expectations, and I left with a special place in my heart for these well-rounded and highly sympathetic characters, and really, what else can you ask for?

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