Nancy de Thompson (not her real name) is introduced when she first meets a sex worker played by Daryl McCormack, Leo Grande (not her real name either), as she searches apprehensively and clearly ambivalently at avail of its services. As he calmly seeks to reassure her, his biography gradually overflows, including the death of her husband two years earlier, and her unsatisfactory sex life with him throughout their lives.
A teacher by training, Nancy approaches the whole exercise with an almost clinical curiosity that can be very, very amusing, well aware of the absurdities of this arrangement, and ready to back off at any moment. She asks Leo about how it all works logistically, while insisting on personal details which he only reluctantly provides.
Written by Katy Brand and directed by Sophie Hyde, “Leo Grande” overcomes the claustrophobia of the premise and framing through the sheer quality of the performances, including McCormack, an Irish actor perhaps best known in the United States for “Peaky Blinders”.
Still, Thompson provides the film’s emotional core, playing a woman in her 50s who says, “I want to play feeling young again,” speaks openly about never having experienced an orgasm, and early on expresses concern that by doing this, she “just a crummy old pervert.”
“Leo Grande” could easily be fun or overly sentimental, but the film largely avoids those pitfalls. And those who dwell on the “body positive” element, which is certainly a marketing hook, shouldn’t miss the underlying themes of not only accepting who you are, but also lamenting missed opportunities and roads. unborrowed, which resonate very universally.
So good luck to you, indeed, “Leo Grande”, as well as Nancy and Leo (again, not their real names).
“Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” premieres June 17 on Hulu.