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 - Jasmijn Groot -

A retired teacher and a sex worker meet in a hotel room. She has been a widow for two years. He has been hired to enhance her sexual experience. She is very nervous. He is all calmness. She shares details about her personal life. He does so but sparingly. She has given a false name. So has he. And yet, the two find their own form of intimacy together, which brings about a life-changing experience.


British comedian and actress Katy Brand wrote the story, which has come out in 2022 as the film Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, during the pandemic. The closed hotel room that forms the backdrop of the movie, as well as the only two actors (Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack) who make their appearances, are obvious hints at this fact. The room is reminiscent of the limited mobility that was imposed on us, as is the interaction between the two main characters, which evokes memories of the one-on-one contact we have become accustomed to in recent years due to COVID restrictions. On the other hand, the way in which the two main characters seek approach to each other, within their special customer-service-relationship, is a wonderful message that you can seek contact outside your familiar circle again after corona. And also that it is so incredibly worthwhile if you do.

But the theme around the intimacy between Nancy and Leo does so much more than that. First of all, it carries with it a message of positivity about sex. Nancy is clearly the victim of the so-called orgasm gap, the madonna complex, the rigid rules that our society has attached to female sexuality. In other words: she's never had fun during sex. And that's where Leo comes in. But no matter how openminded he is about sex, Leo too is not completely free of scars. Their encounters have a lasting impression on both characters, for the better. The interaction between Nancy and Leo hopefully teaches the audience that sex is not only a lot of fun, but also jut how important it is that we can surrender to it without shame. And by extension, how destructive of an effect negative judgments can have on the experience of pleasure.

The film is also an ode to body positivity, especially for older women. During the promotion of the film, Emma Thompson made it her personal mission to make women feel better about their own bodies. Those famous reels, posts and videos on social media, in which she urges other women never to go on a diet ('Walk away from the diet!'): yes, she said all that in the run-up to the premiere of Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. Her character Nancy, who is in her sixties, deliberately solicits the services of a much younger gigolo to feel better about herself. But when she sees him in person, it immediately becomes clear just how insecure she is about her appearance. Leo couldn't have been nicer to her, by trying to figure out what it is exactly that she needs to feel comfortable. And with success. Nancy feels more and more secure in her own skin. And as a viewer, you can't help but to gradually see her through Leo's eyes. She's getting more fun and attractive by the minute.

Nevertheless, a number of barriers remain that need to crumble down. During their second session, it already becomes apparent that the two main characters are not actually called Nancy and Leo. Nancy is afraid of being discovered, of being associated with prostitution as someone who used to teach. But she also fears judgment, because she is a woman who has the courage to (re)discover her sexuality. Leo, on the other hand, has his own reasons for choosing a pseudonym. No one can know what he does for a living, because the world outside of the hotel room is not particularly friendly to sex workers. Let alone family and friends. Leo is terrified of the rejection by those who are most dear to him. While Nancy does share her background with him, Leo throws up quite a wall for her. But when he finally takes it down, the fun can really begin and the last message of the film becomes clear: you can only fully enjoy intimacy if you are open to each other.

Thank goodness Katy Brand didn't let the two main characters end up together! That would have defeated the purpose of the entire movie. No, the meetings between Nancy and Leo has a much better result. They have given the other something that they no longer need each other for. Nancy has gained more confidence, Leo has made a step to deal with his own demons. Will they ever see each other again? Well, at least Nancy wishes Leo all the best. And she has recommended him to all of her friends.


Image: Align, Genius Pictures (2022) Good Luck to You, Leo Grande.


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