A brave portrait of middle-aged sexual liberation: BRIAN VINER reviews Good Luck To You, Leo Grande 

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A brave portrait of middle-aged sexual liberation… Hats off to Emma Thompson in this rite-of-passage story made with humour and sensitivity: BRIAN VINER reviews Good Luck To You, Leo Grande

Goodluck to you, Leo Grande

Rating:

Emma Thompson might not be everyone’s cup of tea, let alone their glass of fizz, but as a widowed former RE teacher called Nancy, she had me hooked from the moment she apprehensively takes a bottle of champagne from a hotel mini-bar in preparation for an encounter with a male escort.

The sex worker’s pseudonym is Leo Grande and he is quite splendidly played by Peaky Blinders actor Daryl McCormack. Until the last of four separate acts, Sophie Hyde’s funny, moving, thought-provoking film, smartly scripted by comedian Katy Brand, features just the two characters in a series of hotel-room trysts.

There is duly a slightly theatrical feel to proceedings, but such is the quality of both the acting and writing, it never feels stagey.

Emma Thompson might not be everyone’s cup of tea, let alone their glass of fizz, but as a widowed former RE teacher called Nancy, she had me hooked from the moment she apprehensively takes a bottle of champagne from a hotel mini-bar in preparation for an encounter with a male escort

Emma Thompson might not be everyone’s cup of tea, let alone their glass of fizz, but as a widowed former RE teacher called Nancy, she had me hooked from the moment she apprehensively takes a bottle of champagne from a hotel mini-bar in preparation for an encounter with a male escort

When we (and Leo) first meet her, Nancy is a bag of nerves. It is two years since the death of her husband Robert, the only man she has ever been to bed with – ‘There are nuns out there with more sexual experience,’ she says – and now she has decided that she wishes to pay for sex.

Even when Robert was alive theirs was a humdrum, robotic sex life, which always left her ‘disappointed’. But the arrival of this handsome, self-assured, worldly young Irishman plunges her into self doubt. The age gap alone is alarming. Does she really want to go through with it?

Leo has a quick wit and abundant charm. He tells Nancy he likes her perfume. ‘Coco Chanel… Nigella Lawson wears it,’ she gabbles by way of reply. Leo says he finds Nigella sexy. Nancy waits for him to add, ‘for her age’. But he doesn’t. He is a man in complete command of their transactional situation, overcoming its potential for awkwardness by effortlessly flirting with her.

Yet his confidence merely exacerbates her own mounting anxiety, compounded by phone calls from her grown-up daughter who, of course, has no idea what her mother is up to.

Leo tells her that his oldest customer was 82, which makes her feel a little better, but she cannot shake off the feeling that what she is about to do is irredeemably, indefensibly seedy. ‘I feel like Rolf Harris all of a sudden,’ she says.

Leo’s family in Ireland don’t know what he does for a living – he tells them he works on a North Sea oil rig – and over the course of three meetings, slowly but very effectively, and thanks to a genuinely nuanced performance by McCormack, his own vulnerabilities begin to show. Nancy, by contrast, is growing in self-esteem. She begins to feel intimacy beyond their physical connection – but is she starting to misinterpret the nature of their relationship?

When we (and Leo) first meet her, Nancy is a bag of nerves. It is two years since the death of her husband Robert, the only man she has ever been to bed with

When we (and Leo) first meet her, Nancy is a bag of nerves. It is two years since the death of her husband Robert, the only man she has ever been to bed with

Brand’s excellent script keeps all this real, faltering only once or twice when Nancy’s guilelessness feels a bit forced, but otherwise sustaining our interest in knowing how it might end. Wisely, the questionable morality of paying for sex is not overlooked (Nancy used to get her secondary-school pupils to write essays on the subject) although anyone who feels strongly that it is intrinsically wrong in any circumstance should probably give this film a swerve.

But really it is a rite-of-passage story made with humour and sensitivity, and hats off to Thompson, not to mention towelling robes, for fleetingly exposing her sexagenarian body not just to a single camera, but also to widespread comment. There is bound to be plenty. But nudity is not the point of this film. Nor, even, is sex. It is about emotional growth, and how we’re never too old to start.

  • Good Luck To You, Leo Grande opens in cinemas next Friday.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-10902403/A-brave-portrait-middle-aged-sexual-liberation-BRIAN-VINER-reviews-Good-Luck-Leo-Grande.html

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