How important is sex to you? Emma Thompson on Sex and Intimacy

By MiNDFOOD

Emma Thompson in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande/ Lionsgate
Emma Thompson in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande/ Lionsgate
Do you need to be intimate with someone to have good sex?  How important is sex to you? These are just some of the questions asked by Emma Thompson’s new movie, Good Luck To You, Leo Grande. 

The film has received quite a lot of publicity due to the fact that – at the age of 63 – Thompson does her first ever full-frontal nude shot. This is noteworthy because very rarely do we see on screen naked female bodies that are not a) young and b) cosmetically enhanced to meet modern-day standards of beauty. Thompsons’s body is neither and thus, her decision to show herself, ‘warts and all’, to millions has been lauded as brave.

Thompson plays Nancy Stokes, a widowed schoolteacher who has never has an orgasm and who, after much hesitation, decides to hire a sex worker to tick this off her bucket list. Leo, the man she hires (played by Daryl McCormack) is so young and beautiful, she is overwhelmed and changes her mind, but as time goes on and they get to know each other a little, the dynamic between them changes.

The film is almost entirely a two-hander and the first half is slightly slow and unengaging, despite the undoubted talent of the two protagonists. However as things ‘hot up’ in the second half and we begin to know Leo and Nancy better, it finds surer footing.

Introducing the film to an enthusiastic audience at a Sydney premiere this weekend, the movie’s Australian director Sophie Hyde said she loved loved sinking her teeth into this story of “connecting with someone else and what it is to have intimacy”.

Thompson – casually dressed in a black leather top and gold leather trousers –  agreed, saying her friend, comedian Katy Brand had written the script, suggesting Thompson might be right for the part of Nancy. 

“The script was just astonishing – and irresistible,” Thompson enthused. “We all put our heart and soul were in this film – we hope it travels from within us to within your hearts,” she told the audience.

The film’s plot purports to be about sex, but really it about human connection. As the dowdy, daggily dressed Nancy greets Leo and confesses her lack of experience (“There are nuns out there with more sexual experience than me!”), he is gentle and reassuring: “It’s an orgasm, you know. It’s not the Faberge egg. People have them every day.”

As they go on meeting and talking, Nancy confesses she feels like a “perv” for deliberately hiring a young, very attractive man. Leo eventually convinces her of the validity of his work and that wanting to be sexually fulfilled is nothing to be ashamed of. Despite his undoubted kindness and stated pride in his work, as they begin to peel each other’s layers of clothing off, their truer selves are also revealed. 

Acclaimed as one of her generation’s best actors, Thompson is moving as Nancy. As Leo, however, Daryl McCormack is by no means overshadowed and imbues his character with a persona that despite his youth, has something to teach the ‘teacher’, 30 years his senior.

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande, although bittersweet, is ultimately uplifting. You’ll walk out agreeing that every body – young or old, beautiful or not – should be celebrated and entitled to sexual pleasure, if not intimacy. As Nancy declares, “Sexual fulfilment makes you feel invincible. This should be a public service!”

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande opens nationally in cinemas on 18 August, 2022.

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