Stumbling across a hidden gem on a streaming service is like hitting the lottery. Especially now that movies are regularly releasing in theaters now that Covid-19 isn’t as much as a threat as it once was. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is one of those diamonds in the rough that’s made for a streaming service that no one should overlook. Coming out the same weekend as Cha Cha Real Smooth and Lightyear, it unfortunately had strong competition among the frenzy of the June schedule. Lucky enough, unlike Netflix, Hulu markets their original films more often so more eyes can discover the stories that don’t get a theatrical release.
Taking place largely in one room, a hotel suite in the heart of London, Leo Grande follows the titular character played by Daryl McCormack as he is hired for a job by Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson). That job Nancy booked Leo for is to have sex. Leo is a male escort who gets paid for his time and companionship, as he puts it. Both presumably using pseudonyms in lieu of their actual identities. If Leo happens to have sex with whomever hires him, it’s part of that package, no solicitation offered. Telling that to Nancy, a recently retired and widowed religious teacher to ease her nerves and pessimistic outlook on the lifestyle Leo leads.
Coming in at 97 minutes, Leo Grande builds up the anticipated acts but faces them on headfirst. Written by Katy Brand, the notion of sex work is spoken about openly, without hesitation, disgust, or judgement. While the two main characters discuss the idea of what acts to commit, the theory of it all doesn’t feel taboo, spoken about in whispers. Leo is proud of what he does for work – if someone hires him to hold hands and watch tv, he obliges, Leo gives the perfect experience the client wishes to seek out. Katy’s screenplay doesn’t hide from the shame some may voice their opinion’s about as a means to make money sex workers face on a daily basis – the screenplay and by extension the actors embrace the wider acceptance of sex work. Leo loves what he does, he takes pride in it even if those close to him don’t exactly know what he does for a living.
Between the two co-stars, the type of chemistry Daryl and Emma have cannot be scripted nor written down. Both play off the other’s cues and body language as if the characters have known each other for years yet the two just met and have spent a month’s time together. There’s charming and then there’s what Daryl and Emma bring to their roles, full of sincerity and heart, a brief interaction turns into a lifetime of memories. Director Sophie Hyde creates an intimate space for two people of different backgrounds who wouldn’t normally meet to connect through mind, body, and soul.
In that month, Nancy books Leo 4 separate times, each getting more comfortable than the previous. They do more than just have sex, on the contrary, sex feels more like an afterthought to these two. They simply are enjoying each other’s company – having drinks, teasing, laughing, dancing to music and jumping into bed.
With their time spent, the two get to know each other on a deep and personal level. Topics range from work, family, religion, morality, depression, self-care, happiness and of course, pleasure. What’s made to be a transaction between a buyer and a seller goes beyond skin deep. It’s an exploration of two people through talking and sharing ideas. Nothing that’s said between the two can be looked down upon or held against one another, though during session three, Nancy goes a bit too far.
I found myself getting lost in the conversation, hanging on every word spoken, laughing when the moment calls for it, singing along to Alabama Shakes and Brittany Howard’s soulful voice and in the next line being brought back down to earth when Nancy brings out a list of what she wishes to accomplish while together with Leo. There’s a sweetness that both bring to their roles and unlock within each other when the dialogue pushes the characters to their limits. Whether it’s loving the body you’re in, or exploring a sexual desire or facing a fear, Leo Grade will make you feel like you’re in the story discovering something within yourself.
Written By: Katy Brand
Directed By: Sophie Hyde
Music By: Stephen Rennicks
Cinematography: Bryan Mason
Starring: Emma Thompson, Daryl McCormack, Isabella Laughland
Where to Watch: Hulu
Release Date: June 17, 2022
Running Time: 1 Hour 37 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%