Director Sophie Hyde’s two-hander was one of the best films of 2022. Katy Brand’s script provides a nuanced jumping-off point for two actors who are both in top form. Emma Thompson has never been better than she is here, as retired schoolteacher Nancy Stokes. Nancy’s husband has died, and she’s never had an orgasm, so she decides to hire a sex worker to figure out what she’s been missing. Only, grief isn’t a straight line, and neither is intimacy. Over the course of the film, she and the man who goes by Leo (Daryl McCormack) work through her baggage surrounding sex, body image, fulfillment, and much more.
Along the way, McCormack’s Leo becomes much more than just a sounding board or a manic pixie dream boy. The film’s script pushes back against the stereotype of the sex worker who exists only to be a good listener, instead writing him with the same level of interiority as his client. This is McCormack’s breakout role, and he complements Thompson’s neurotic, judgmental character perfectly by playing a mostly easygoing man who is up front about the differences between his charming exterior and his real, hidden self.
The pair’s excellent performances communicate deep truths about their characters’ gendered, generational, and class-based differences. Leo and Nancy aren’t perfect — Nancy in particular is flawed in a way that adds a challenging and honest layer to the film — but they explore each other with openhearted curiosity. From that curiosity springs a different kind of truth, the kind that hits the audience squarely where we live. “Good Luck To You, Leo Grande” turns out to be the cinematic equivalent to several weeks of sex therapy–– for Nancy, Leo, and the viewers. By the end, it’s clear that it’s a transcendent, deeply empathetic work of art.