Good Luck To You Leo Grande Review

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande: A Masterclass in Sex Positivity

Be warned, there will be spoilers.

COVID-19 gave us so many things; indigestion, fear of other people’s breathing, and the legendary Tiger King. It also gave us this beautiful film about an older woman who needed to get fucked by a hot, young man. It was released in 2022, so the filming of it happened while people were isolating HARD and as a result, there are only really 3 on-screen characters.

Most of the film is an intimate look into paid sessions with Leo Grande, a young sex worker whose understanding of relationships and sexuality seems to be far more advanced than one might expect. Certainly, more than Nancy, an uptight retired school teacher and recent widow in her 60s, had expected. In fact, next to Leo, who seems to be riding that line between millennials and Gen Z, her emotional maturity (or should I say, immaturity) feels childish – a familiar dynamic between millennials and boomers.

So what makes this film exciting, and what does that say about us?

Showing a more balanced and professional view of sex work than is often portrayed

Pretty Woman, a classic film about sex work was all about saving a young woman from the trappings of a degrading and dangerous profession. It was pretty radical for its time, but it didn’t do much to legitimize sex work as a real vocation.

It’s very common to see sex work depicted as something that vulnerable people resort to when they have no other options, with the understanding that they would get out of it if they could. This film turns that narrative on its head and presents a more empowered view, based on real-world sex workers’ perspectives.

Leo Grande resembles more of a therapist than anything else. He is very observant, mature, and non-judgmentally communicative. He has boundaries that he won’t tolerate being violated and he knows that everyone has the capacity to be sexy. He has perfected the art of drawing that sexiness to the surface and supporting others in finding what it is they need in the bedroom and exploring it with them.

An older actress portrayed in a sexual context

I am so glad that there has been an increase in sexy older women on screen over the years. Not only because my own bisexual tastes include older and older women (see earlier articles on my love for Gillian Anderson and Geena Davis), but also because it’s proof that you can age and still be sexy, still be full of life.

There was always this narrative through the 90s, 2000s and much of the 2010s, that women over 40 might as well not exist. If they did, they only really existed as a tired, nagging, degraded version of their younger selves or if they were lucky, perhaps a wise, old crone.

Good Luck To You Leo Grande Review

Now, we see older women who are accomplished. Older women who have full lives. Older women have learned that sexiness has more to do with how you carry yourself than whether your legs are perfect. In Good Luck To You, Leo Grande, we get to see Nancy’s self-perception move from that judgmental narrative to a kinder one, with the help of a skilled sex worker, who helps her to be a fully-formed and genuinely sexy woman.

As an important step in the process, Leo and Nancy address these outdated ideas explicitly in conversation, when Nancy says that she was expecting Leo to say ‘for her age’ after a compliment. Leo, bless him, reinforces that there is no need to qualify the sexiness of an older woman simply because she’s older.

Normalizing a sexual awakening later in life

There’s this common idea that maturity follows a linear trajectory. While there are certainly trends that fall in line with that idea, it is fundamentally flawed. The longer we live, the more opportunity there is for divergent life experiences and maturity is not a steady, continuous, unidirectional thing. People frequently get stuck in some areas.

We have these targets that we’ve internalized from society. I should be married by my 30s. I should experiment sexually in my 20s and try everything from anal to group sex and beyond. These targets change from generation to generation, and from one social group to another, but they usually exist in some form. It seems we’re always comparing ourselves to ideals that we didn’t really set for ourselves.

Among these targets is the idea that women in their 60s should have already done their sexual experimentation by then, that they should know their bodies and their desires inside and out, but so many don’t. If we think back to 60 years ago, that was the 60s and not everyone took part in the love and psychedelics revolution of the time. Many were dealing with parents who had taken on the ideals of the restrictive 50s. Add in the rampant trauma of the times and you can see how it might take until your 60s (or later) to finally feel liberated enough to explore. To relax enough to orgasm.

Sexual awakenings can happen at any age and can look like anything. Depicting an older woman experiencing such an awakening is a story that needs telling (a whopping 10-15% of women are estimated to have never had an orgasm just like Nancy), and this was done with an alluring vulnerability.

Complex power dynamics

Age to some is just a number, but most people have limits in mind as to what constitutes an acceptable age gap. For those who don’t, the law certainly has set some limits for them, and obviously for good reason. This film toes that line and it does so largely through the understanding that gendered, racial and cultural power dynamics play a large role in mediating age dynamics. Emotional maturity is also hugely variable.

Leo displays maturity beyond his years in terms of his understanding of relationships and sex. Similarly, Nancy displays a lack of emotional maturity despite, and perhaps because of, having taken on huge responsibilities in other areas of her life. The crucial element to this connection working is that there are clear, professional boundaries. Leo’s connections to his clients are based in a non-judgmental service built on mutual respect.

Good Luck To You Leo Grande Review

But it is complex. Leo has darker skin and an Irish accent – super sexy, yes, but also tied to histories of oppression when it comes to white Brits. He is also a man, and so what age means to a man is very different from what age means to a woman.

Nancy is used to the idea that an older person having sex with a younger person is usually exploitative, but Leo is in his late 20s and he’s a very muscular man. In some ways, his youth gives him power over her. The ambiguity of vulnerability in their connection, which often shifts throughout the film from one person to the other, is fascinating to watch and serves as a good reminder that intersecting identities can weave together in ways that hopefully allow for shared power to be passed back and forth.

Asserting healthy boundaries

I love how they handled the boundary violation – and it’s a big one.

After seeing each other a few times, Nancy decides she wants to know Leo’s “true” identity so she does some cyber snooping and discovers his legal name. When she confesses, it’s clear that she doesn’t believe she can be in the wrong. Some of that may be her minimizing his autonomy and undermining his profession, and some of it may also be that for such a long time, women have been so undervalued and powerless in society that they were rarely held accountable for their actions. This is a large topic worthy of its own discussion, but suffice it to say, she is surprised that he takes this seriously.

This boundary wasn’t explicitly discussed in advance, but it shouldn’t have to be. He introduced himself as Leo, and out of respect, that is what Nancy should call him. Many professions adopt new names for the purposes of work – writers, actors, spies – and this serves many purposes, from preserving privacy to enhancing a side of one’s personality. Additionally, uncovering his legal name could pose a very real threat to his safety.

When Nancy crosses this line, Leo doesn’t shield Nancy from his feelings of betrayal, nor does he make a big show of it. He clearly communicates the boundary violation and ends their working agreement.

After some time has passed, Nancy meets up with him to apologize and to ask to have another session. What I love about this is that she doesn’t just hope that time itself will fix the situation. She doesn’t expect him to accept her apology without addressing the financial impact of having violated his boundary, nor does she make a big display of remorse that would put him in a support role to her emotions. Instead, she gives a genuine apology, coupled with tangible support of his career in the form of making referrals and paying for another session. In this meeting, her legal identity and some of her past is brought to light which places them in a more equal level of vulnerability, so she won’t be holding the knowledge of his legal identity over him.

Full frontal nudity of a woman in her 60s

Probably the simultaneously most and least shocking moment of the film involves Nancy undressing in front of the mirror. It is shocking because full frontal nudity is rare on screen and usually reserved for either young, hot women or as a punchline to some sort of joke, but in this film, it was neither.

Good Luck To You Leo Grande Review

It was a 63-year-old Emma Thompson seeing herself fully and appreciating herself without magnifying or minimizing any “flaws”. She simply stood there, looked, and finally smiled a genuine smile. There was no revulsion, and no need to pose in a “sexy” way. There was also no attempt to either hide or focus on her naked vulva.

Emma Thompson is a celebrity, and celebrities do tend to take their physical appearance more seriously than the average person. It often is, after all, a career investment. She was also gifted with very good looks which has helped her become a success. But she is also a woman in her 60s and her body is visibly aging. She doesn’t have tight abs and her skin is less elastic than it once was. Yet here she is, naked and human.

Aging can be scary, especially for a woman. Being deprived of witnessing aging bodies can exacerbate that fear. Like most scary things, once you see it and can really take it in, it becomes less scary. While this film isn’t the first to feature full-frontal nudity of an older woman, it is certainly one of very few, and for that, I applaud it.

A journey worth taking

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande is a refreshing film about trust and sexual exploration written, directed, and produced by women. The way it depicts sexuality and intimacy is remarkably neutral, non-judgmental, and rooted in genuine connection. It shows two very different people navigating the struggles of vulnerability, making mistakes, and repairing their relationship with honesty and accountability.

Plus, you get to see the alluring transformation of someone shedding their insecurities and nasty defenses, to then suddenly blossom into a state of sexual vitality.

And who doesn’t love that?