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A touching portrait of desirability

In the film Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, a retired widow hires a good-looking young sex worker, and it unravels themes of humiliation and intimacy as it explores why only certain people are allowed to desire
Thu, Jul 21, 2022

Unfortunately, we occupy a society that dictates to us at a loudness that is at the VLC level that only certain people are allowed to desire and act on that desire. In Good Luck to You, Leo Grande Emma Thompson plays a middle-aged woman who seeks the services of an audaciously handsome and puzzlingly tender sex worker, played by Daryl McCormack.

Initially, it appears that the film is just offering a voyeuristic lens into the insecurities of an older woman desiring to explore her sexuality in secret. A sexuality that she was denied in her decades of marriage which offered her no agency or even the opportunity to perform anything salacious for her satisfaction.

However, the movie progressively gnaws at the insecurity of the viewer and pulls at our thoughts on our value in the economy. Nancy Stokes and Leo Grande are involved in a dance of humiliation, apology and intimacy.

Nancy grapples with the fact that the only way she could be with such a desirable person is by paying for his services. She is in for an education that surpasses not just sex but calls for her to question the way she harmfully engages with the people in her own life, including her children, students and ultimately, Leo.

Nancy’s demeanour gradually progresses from being humiliated by just existing in her body to finding comfort next to Leo. This blurs her boundaries and illustrates the messiness of human encounters. (Boy did she get rid of the floral blouses fast, too).

On her expedition, she risks going too far in trying to find out the truth about the beautiful soft man who seems to guide her through her second puberty and muddles the line between truth and reality.

In her want and becoming, Nancy becomes selfish and flies too close to the sun at Leo’s expense. Her utterances about the mundane nature of motherhood, her disappointment in her children and her ‘slut-shaming’ antics as a religious education teacher seem to strip away at the veneer of Leo and threaten to expose who he truly is.

To view this movie as a tale of an older woman seeking companionship and acting on her desire would be reductive. The truth is, Nancy is a symbol of every person who has had parameters placed around the expression of their sexuality and who they are allowed to explore companionship with.

In an interesting shift of perspective, it appears that Leo, who is the prototype of the attractive racially ambiguous chiselled beauty standards of 2022, grapples with what it means to look like him. He interrogates his value in the eyes of his clients and how much more desirable he is because of his unique looks which assist him in hiding parts of himself. His persona is a dangerous identity swinging like a pendulum between fantasy and reality.

This movie is an exercise in openness that I didn’t sign up for. I did not expect to be this emotionally involved; trespassing on this woman’s vulnerability; outraged by her audacity to cause harm; teary at her inability to accept love and ultimately, very shy when they got down to the business.

Her thoughts about her own invisibility and lamenting the fact that she was never happy with her body is an exhausting exercise of relation. The audience shares Nancy’s vulnerability for their own reasons which are informed by patriarchal beauty standards and respectability politics that demonstrate the various ways in which one is found to be unattractive.

  • Good Luck To You, Leo Grande is showing at cinemas

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