Sundance: ‘Good Luck to You, Leo Grande’ Sparks Discussion about De-stigmatizing Female Pleasure


(Courtesy Sundance)

Daryl McCormack and Emma Thompson in “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande.” (Courtesy Sundance Institute)

By Makena Reynolds, Arts Writer


The intimate comedy “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” starring Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack premiered at Sundance Film Festival on Friday, Jan. 22. Directed by Sophie Hyde with a script written by Katy Brand, this film brilliantly dismantles gendered ageism and the stigma surrounding female pleasure.

Who is Leo Grande?

Nancy Stoke (Thompson), a widowed woman who has never had “good sex,” seeks help from a younger — and incredibly fit — sex worker by the name of Leo Grande (McCormack). Nancy is mortified that a man who is so attractive would ever be interested in having sexual relations with a woman of her age, despite her paying him for his services. What was meant to be one night of carefree sex turns into several discussions about the shame surrounding body image, pleasure and the sex industry. 

This film was brave and bold. Thompson’s performance is breathtaking, raw and relatable and McCormack’s performance paired with hers brought the whole piece together. Brand’s script is witty and filled with anecdotes that see themselves through by the final moments of the film. Combined with Hyde’s direction, this film reminds viewers of the importance of the female gaze in media. 

Body Positivity and Ageism

In an early meeting between the two, Leo and Nancy look at themselves in the mirror. At a moment when their relationship is still new, Nancy confides in Leo that she has never liked her body and that it is hard for her to look at herself in the mirror. She has this looming feeling that because she is older she is no longer desirable, to which Leo assures her that her age has no affect on her beauty. 

In contrast, the final shot of the film is Nancy admiring her fully naked body in the mirror. She looks content, and is finally accepting her body and all of the amazing things that she is able to do and feel with it. In a final moment with Leo, she refers to her body as a “playground” of endless possibilities to live and love. 

De-Stigmatizing Female Pleasure

At one point in their first meeting, Nancy says, “It feels controversial suddenly … to want something like this, to even want it.” I think many can resonant with this, living in a society where sex is often viewed on two ends of a spectrum. One side is the binary and restrictive purity culture whereas the other is overt sensuality that still serves the male gaze. There is a lack of room for woman to enjoy sexual experiences, or to even open up a discussion that values their pleasure. 

There needs to be a happy medium where women do not feel shame for enjoying sex. It is just as important for women to orgasm as it is for men. All people deserve to orgasm and enjoy sex, as Thompson’s character states towards the end of the movie, “Pleasure is a wonderful thing. It’s something we should all have.”


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