[Sundance 2022] GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE -- A Lovely Two-Hander Exploring Traditionally Taboo Themes
Review by Sean Boelman
If the COVID-19 pandemic has had one positive effect on the film industry, it is an increased appreciation for intimate chamber pieces. Sophie Hyde’s Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is one hell of a two-hander, with a script that is wonderfully witty and two brilliant performances at its center.
The movie follows a widow who hires a male escort in her search for emotional and physical connection, but ends up finding herself in the process. It’s a premise that sounds like it could very easily turn into something preachy or overly sappy, but Katy Brand’s script maintains a certain level of nuance and subtlety to it that works very well.
Brand sets up the film around a series of meetings that occur between the two characters. And for a movie that is a chamber piece, primarily set in a hotel room and composed predominantly of pillow talk, it finds a way of making these conversations cinematic. Apart from one section that is a bit more somber than the rest, it’s pretty thoroughly gripping.
Perhaps the most impressive thing is the way in which the film frankly explores these traditionally taboo themes. The movie really dissects the stigma that society has against sex workers, both about the sex worker and their client, as well as topics of sex positivity and body image.
At first, it seems like the protagonist is a standard grieving widow and the co-lead is a charming pretty boy, but it becomes obvious starting with the second meeting that there is more to them than they initially let on. It’s a supportive, grounded take on a profession that is far too often disparaged in the media.
Emma Thompson has always been an extremely talented actress, and the work that she is doing here is pretty exceptional. She absolutely eats up the dialogue in a way that will really hit the viewer in the heart. But perhaps more surprising is the fact that Daryl McCormack holds his own against the more seasoned performer.
Given that the film is a dialogue-driven comedy set in a small number of locations, it doesn’t have a lot that is obvious about its execution. However, some of the quieter aspects of filmmaking, such as the blocking, really shine here and compound the excellent work being done by the two actors.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is the type of movie that is somehow extremely memorable despite the fact that it isn’t very showy. It’s a charmer and a crowd-pleaser, but it still approaches its themes in a thoughtful way.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande screened at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, which runs virtually from January 20-30.