He goes by the fake name Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack). But at the start, you catch a glimpse of his true self: taking off his fetching yellow beanie before submitting to his character. Leo wears a well-defined suit; he's classy, eloquent, and young. From the moment Nancy invites him in to her posh and bland hotel room, she’s bursting with nervous questions. He’s calm and patient; she’s animated and resistant. It’s going to be a long appointment.
It's a surprise that Leo Grande isn’t based on a play, nor did Katy Brand write the script with Covid in mind. Mostly, the film takes place inside these grey walls, with occasional visits to the en-suite bathroom or the city-view window. Bryan Mason’s cinematography avoids overstating itself, maintaining intimate curiosity with the contrasting characters and the riveting performances that complement them, the dialogue volleying with such awkward charm.
Emma Thompson is a treasure (as always), capturing with such realistic affability the anxieties, lessons and tragedies of ageing as a woman. Even when Nancy rants about men needing wars and girls needing longer skirts, her more temperate and revealing moments with Leo reveal 30 years of romantic and sexual disappointment.
Leo is playing a part, which he clarifies: ‘You’re not paying for the truth … you’re paying for a fantasy.’ But that fantasy, that dream of himself, is occasionally punctured by Nancy as she forces honesty from him. You see his pose change or his smile twitch. In the same way Nancy avoids sex, Leo swerves his own personal history. Maybe it’s Nancy’s background as a teacher, but she simply can’t accept that mystery – if anything, the truth gets her in the mood.
There's a comfortable ease to Daryl McCormack's performance: non-threatening, non-judgemental, and popping with eclectic sexual charisma. But which parts are Leo Grande's real self and which are merely reflections of the dream he’s trying to craft? McCormack pulls off an increasingly difficult dynamic. It's a performance of a performance, yet he provides enough likeable veracity to want to know more.
Ultimately, Nancy’s antiquated attitudes are born from intense insecurities about herself, her body, and her lack of life experience. In the dialogue, her jangly manner rings with anxious comedy, but it’s also often tinged with existential sadness. One of her first questions is ‘Am I a disappointment, so to speak?’ – that final, superfluous idiom a key part of that self-conscious, middle-class sensibility. She’s convinced her beauty has expired, especially for younger affections, which are what she really wants.
Leo Grande is more than watching a 55-year-old woman finally have the sex of her life. It’s about feeling comfortable in your own skin and letting go of the ridiculous shame made by simply wanting pleasure. A funny, feel-good, sex-positive delight.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande will be in UK cinemas on Friday 17 June.
|What||Good Luck to You, Leo Grande review|
17 Jun 22 – 17 Jun 23, IN CINEMAS
|Website||Click here for more information|