“Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” thoughts from a senior perspective
I am so happy that “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” exists! This film portrays older-age sexual yearning, curiosity, shame, and nervousness accurately and beautifully. The film stars Emma Thompson, age 62, as a widow/retired religious education teacher who has never had an orgasm, and Daryl McCormack, age 29, as the sex worker she hires for a bucket list of missed sexual opportunities.
I’m 78, and I never expected to see a film with such tender authenticity about a senior woman wanting to explore her sexual pleasure with a gentle, respectful, vulnerable, and gorgeous male sex worker.
Is she ageist because she wants a young man?
I read objections from several of you on social media who saw this as ageist. I don’t see it that way. She had sex with only one man in her life: her husband, whose idea of sex was get on, get in, get off, go to sleep. She wants transactional sex with a man who prioritizes her pleasure, who will serve her without his own agenda, and whose youthful appearance will turn her on.
In my view, this “pilot light lover” (to adopt Gail Sheehy’s phrase) is just the beginning of her sexual awakening. I picture her after the film ends, going forward with confidence to meet men of her age who, she will discover, delight in giving pleasure to their partner.
Let’s address what many people are asking: did Emma Thompson need to bare it all to make the point that she finally accepts her body?
I love that she does this. It’s startling to see her naked, staring in the mirror, no longer confined by a pencil skirt or draped in a negligee. She is unapologetically adorned with her natural wrinkles and loose skin. I loved that. I found her beautiful.
No, she didn’t have to do it, but how it amplifies the message of overcoming shame and reclaiming her body! I applaud her and director Sophie Hyde for this decision. (Personally, I would have appreciated seeing more of Leo, too, just saying.)
I know I’ll have more to say about this film, but I’ll stop here to invite your comments. Let’s keep this discussion going.
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I look forward to reading your comments.
I’ve been looking forward to seeing it since I saw Emma Thompson on a talk show. She’s always struck me as attractive. I was very pleased to see her as a woman discovering her sexuality. I am so disappointed that so many women go through their entire lives and never discover the joy that all of us are due. I grieve for the women that never achieve orgasms. There is no reason that women / people should not discover good sex at any age. There is no age when intimacy and pleasure end. We may not be able to approach it as we did as youngsters, but that can be a good thing. As youngsters we are generally in such a rush that we actually miss the pleasure along the way. I think this movie should be shown to everyone that’s old enough to understand sex. I believe that everyone needs to learn that pleasure is Ok!
I very much enjoyed and welcomed this film. We need more media showing that women of all ages are sexual beings and their needs should be acknowledged and fulfilled irregardless of the woman’s relationship status. Many women are single and don’t have reliable sex partners. Having our sexual needs fulfilled should be accepted as part of life, and hiring a sex worker to fulfill our sexual needs should be accepted. However, unfortunately in the US, prostitution is illegal. I wrote a piece for HuffPost about this issue. You might be interested in reading it.
Thank you for sharing your excellent personal essay, Patricia!
Joan, and everyone, thank you for this thoughtful discussion. The film was beautiful, moving, and so real. I agree with Brenda’s comments about it being about far more than sex. It is about the human capacity to connect, and to grow, at any age. Emma Thompson and Daryl McKormack gave heartful, vulnerable performances that touched me deeply. I laughed out loud many times! The physical comedy – her hesitations and facial expressions, his trying out different poses – was wonderful. It was a brave script, wonderfully directed, with fantastic actors. This whole subject of later life love and sex is so important. I hope we see lots more like it treated with as much sensitivity and emotional intelligence as “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande.” Five stars!
What a beautiful , sensual, erotic and educational film. The vulnerability of Nancy and the compassion of Leo make this a memorable movie for all ages, but especially us older folks. Bravo !
I reallllly appreciated this film for boldly going there and demystifying sex work and encouraging more women to look into hiring intimacy pros.
I’m a sex worker, and it was clear the writers had a brainstorm meeting – “what are some of the misconceptions about sex work?” and then they proceeded to trot them all out, one after another.
I found him lovely, and her annoying. I have clients like her, and they wear me out! So much emotional labor, they bring all their baggage into the room and taint it.
I also noticed how whimsical the music they chose was, and wondered what the film would’ve been like if the music set a different tone.
I loved the messages of going slow, performance vs experience, communicating, and getting consent. It was a little bothersome that he disregarded some of her requests and did things his way, but I think they were trying to show that he was being intuitive and had emotional flex.
The dance scene was cute, reminded me of birds courting. The dance exercise also introduced somatic bodywork, which is a good way to calm the nervous system.
Just about every one of my clients says to me, “I’ve never said this to anyone before…” like she did in the movie. I found her confession about what she thought about her children to be very raw and brave, they could have made her confession something silly or no big deal, but they didn’t.
Clients prying and snooping and trying to access part of me or my life that aren’t on offer is a hard limit for me. There is no way I could be intimate with someone after they violated boundaries so brazenly. I never understand WHY some people want to pry and snoop and act smug when they find something out about you. Do they think it’s a game?
With that in mind, I found the end scene where they have amazing sex unrealistic, but I was VERY pleased they had her discover her orgasm solo, using a pleasure tool. And of course the closing scene of her looking at herself in the mirror was incredible.
Finally, I want to ask – who do you think had the power in this dynamic – the man or the woman? We’re dealing with money, class, race, age, gender. Whew they covered a lot of bases! Wouldn’t it be interesting to see sequels where we see how he interacts with other clients, and how she goes about dating, now that she’s learned so much about herself?
For commentary from a real sex worker from Nevada, check out the Tim Ferriss interview with Alice Little. It is Podcast #280.
Can you give us a direct link to that podcast, Jane?
Listening to this podcast is a rare opportunity to hear what actually goes on at the Nevada ranches. In the movie there is a suggestion that sex workers be funded by the NHS. The essence of this topic is explored in the interview. Autistic sons…
YES! Imagine if part of our healthcare plan was for everyone who wanted it were provided one intimacy session a month? Just think how much better our society would be – less crime, anger, frustration, loneliness, isolation…more pleasure and intimacy, please!
I have not yet seen the film but looked at the trailers. My now husband lived 45 years with his late wife as described in the movie. Wham bam, he came, rolled over and went to sleep. He’d call his orgasm his “sleeping pill” so they had “sex every night for his sleeping pill.” His late wife, he told me, didn’t have orgasms for the first “30 years of their marriage because they thought she couldn’t”, then “she figured it out with a vibrator, then she LOVED anal sex and would always come within 5 minutes of any sex they had.” When we got married, he tried that crap on me but I didn’t buy it. I had to teach him that there are 2 people in bed. He’d say giving me oral sex is “boring.” I take too long to orgasm…He didn’t even know where the clitorus is! etc etc. It’s better now but far from great. I am debating with myself if I should have us watch the movie or leave well enough alone.
I’m a 63 y.o. gay man and I want a Leo Grande. I’d hire him in a hot minute.
I agree with you, Joan. Excellent film all the way through even though the reconciliation seemed a bit far-fetched.
It would be amazing if sex work was legal in the States. The Leo Grande movie was a pivotal movie for me in terms of have a comfortable and safe environment to explore my sexuality with no emotional attachment. To treat it like having a great massage or a wonderful therapist see once a month to to explore and have a satisfying encounter. To heightened my sexual skills. Of of course I’ve found its all about finding the right match as I did with my therapist kissed many frogs before finding the right one. And my masseuse now is sensitive to my needs. In a perfect world… connecting to men are difficult in that respect. The need to dominate and not take their time is off putting. I’m 70 years now still attractive and curious about the world around me. I am thankfully an artist which has kept me sane and self affirming. Relationships with males are disappointing at best although I had a relationship with man for 10 years which was fulfilling he was a gentle soul he genuinely loved women not just fucking them. Now I want a control environment were I my sexual needs are my only focus. Only a sex worker could provide that for me and young 30’s, 40’s…I don’t want an old man like “Nancy” stated in Leo Grande.
I loved the movie and wish the view of sex workers would become more normalized. I feel bad for people who go through life not enjoying sex because they are misinformed, unable to get correct information, or to scared to speak up. My goal is to experience a prostate orgasm. Even with much practice I still haven’t succeeded. It would be wonderful to be able to be taught by a professional the tips and tricks of how to achieve one on my body, having it done to me.
I have just watched this movie and found it very slow and whilst unusual in its theme it was quite boring at times.
The “slowness” that you found “boring” is an accurate reflection of human reality in the circumstances that led Nancy to link up with a sex worker. Her tentativeness, mixed feelings, and approach-avoidance means that the “action” unfolds slowly, and that is precisely the point. Had Leo arrived and engaged in a “slam, bam, thank you ma’am,” scenario, the film would’ve been a complete bust IMHO.
I LOVED this film! Thank you for recommending it, Joan, and for moderating this conversation.
For those who think the movie is only about sex, sex workers, ageism, etc., I would say, please watch it again, and really listen to the dialog, watch their body language and expressions. Really listen and watch closely.
I think you will see that the film is really about Nancy’s growth as a human (and Leo’s too!). She learns about who she is holistically by focusing on learning about her sexuality. She could not have found a better partner in this journey than Leo, who was thoughtful, compassionate and wise…giving, loving and vulnerable. (Yes, I would love a Leo of any age!)
Nancy’s transformation over the few weeks of their relationship as she explores and learns about herself is wonderful to watch, and her growth is extraordinary. (Just watch her face and especially her eyes in the final scene as she observes and absorbs and ACCEPTS her WHOLE self.)
I would love to see a sequel and where she goes next!
Brenda – I completely agree with your comment. This movie is about much more than the situation – an older women hires a younger sex worker to help her learn more about her sexuality and experience the pleasure she was denied in her marriage. It’s about her transformation. “Nancy” (real name Susan Robinson) learns to be vulnerable through her interactions with “Leo.” He makes it safe for her to emerge from her very tightly knit shell. In the hands of an actress as talented as Emma Thompson, it is a thing of beauty to watch and experience, as Nancy slowly overcomes her fear and ambivalence. Daryl McKormack does an equally fine job as Leo, a gorgeous guy with as much emotional intelligence as physical beauty and sexual smarts.
I salute the writer/director Sophie Hyde for a brave and realistic script. I agree with Joan, too, about the final scene of Nancy looking at her aging body in the mirror. It was moving, affirming, and an important coda to the film. I’m passionate about all of us looking honestly at sex and desire in later life. It morphs and changes, but it doesn’t have to go away, and some lucky ones experience a late-life Renaissance. Nancy is one of those! Bravo!
So much to say about this fine work. Emma Thompson has always been a personal icon – brilliant, funny, risk-taking, often profound. I suspect the film comes partly from a deeply sex-positive activist part of her. And yes, her bravery in nakedness.
Sex work. The only other film I can think of that treated sex work with such luminous honesty is Helen Hunt’s The Sessions. Thank you for that.
“Ageism.” One of our great ills currently, left and right, is what I’d love to call ‘labelism,’ smacking a label on – half a dozen I could think of, just from the left – so we can anathematize or pretend to higher understanding. Nowhere is it more poisonous that in sex: bias and reaction conceived as wisdom.
What would I have done differently? Hmmm. Lots of female nudity, but just one half-second glimpse of what might or might not been a penis. The Code. I’d love a version of this film where actual sex was visible with the same gentle honesty the film used to tell its culturally censored story. What else? I loved the very slow pace of exploration. It verged at times on boring, but it was utterly authentic. And again, I’d loved to have the culmination less compressed, less of a glance at the changes she was seeking, and more chance for us to immerse in them.
Great great thanks for their being just enough cultural space for this immensely valuable piece of storytelling to find its sunlight. Thank you, Emma.
What a rich and thoughtful comment, Bill. Thank you! I’ll hope to track down and view a copy of Helen Hunt’s “The Sessions,” as it’s a film I’ve not yet seen.
For a version of the film under discussion here where, in your words, “actual sex is visible with gentle honesty,” the best thing out there right now is Joan Price and jessica drake’s award-winning, “Guide to Wicked Sex: Senior Sex.” See https://joanprice.com/wicked-sex for how to purchase a copy.
The Sessions is great but not a great representation of surrogate partner therapy. But, it’s still a good movie. (We see clients for way more than 6 sessions)
At age 65 , ten years after my ex husband lost millions and abandoned our family for Ghana ( to try to fill his pockets , I finally decided I was ready to indulge in dating. My ex had been the love of my life ; thus this delayed response. I met a ‘cowboy’ on a dating site, and whle I felt all the vulnerabilities , insecurities , as experienced by ‘ Nancy ‘ , I decided to go all in. I wanted to cover my body in the morning light , but he would not participate in my fear. He showed me , over a period of months., the beauty and art id my body , and though we are no longer Connected , I am reawakened sexually ans sensually – a gift !
Can’t even find words to describe how much I loved this movie–every single part of it. I was looking forward to it, but didn’t anticipate how much I would cry! Emma Thompson showed all of the complexities of being an older woman and trying to reconcile this aging body with so many things: the idea of being desirable and sexual looking the way aging bodies do; wishing we had appreciated our young, firm bodies when we had them; wishing we had acted more on behalf of our own sexual interests and lusts ; wishing we had owned our pleasure more; and finally coming to the conclusion (and wishing you had come to it years and years ago) that pleasure is something we all deserve and get to have, no matter what. I love Mac’s suggestion above to make this mandatory viewing in all senior care facilities. I would go even further and say it should be mandatory viewing in high school sex-ed classes! I’m 56 and watched it with my 20 and 16 year old daughters, and they cried along with me, felt empowered by the movie, and we had long discussions about how women’s pleasure is not often addressed as in media talk and portrayal of sex (my girls feel this is still a HUGE problem for their generation).
Well said. I too loved this movie for the memories, emotions, and longing it stirred in me. Emma was wonderful for her gutsy honesty, and for her wry smiles as she realizes what she has discovered. It reminds us how crucial it is to be desired, and that pleasure is a worthy part of life; every life. Women are not the only ones who wish we had appreciated our firm and flexible bodies while we had them, but Emma shows that it not as important as being a partner with both desire and respect. I hope it comes out on DVD because it deserves much wider distribution and a longer life. It’s ageless; like sex.
I would like to say to all of my baby boomers over 60s out there age is just the numbers who care what people think about you having sex with a younger man or woman wearing condoms of course. It’s having safe pleasure without getting STI with someone you’re sharing with this movie is about us opening our feelings life is so short.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be sleeping with everyone of course not we’re all adults let’s take care of ourselves.
This movie is about us older adults what we have been missing all these years it is time to open our hearts and feelings.
Beautifully stated…I came away from the movie with all you expressed. And that your young daughters enjoyed it to…the pitfalls of replacing sex for our sensual beings.
While we all know what an amazing actress Emma is, I think that Daryl also gave a powerful performance. His character showed incredible depths of caring, support, tenderness, and at times, very personal vulnerability. He was exactly the kind of sexual “therapist” that Emma’s character needed.
Agree, Jeff! He was AMAZING, and every woman I’ve talked to so far has said, “Where can I find a sex worker like Leo?” I love Leo for many reasons, including all the ones you mention–I especially loved the vulnerability of him, and the way he kind of nervously trys postions out while she is in the bathroom…
I completely agree, Jeff. To my mind, Daryl/Leo beautifully illustrates who a “Real Man” is when it comes to sex: in your words, he’s caring, supportive, tender, and vulnerable.
Completely agree with these comments about Daryl/Leo. His patience, openness, and vulnerability were completely engaging. His beauty – and not in a traditional “macho” sense – added to the experience. He gave a stunning performance!
Somewhat lost in the focus on Emma Thompson’s very beautiful nakedness, and Daryl McCormack’s youthful gorgeousness, are several other important messages. The film highlights and demonstrates consent, boundaries, communication, a focus on giving and receiving pleasure, and the signal importance of laughter and playfulness in sexual encounters. Even though the film is only available on Hulu, I hope it gains a wide audience. And I wish that many senior care facilities and community senior centers will make it available to their “customers.” Bravo Sophie Hyde!
In Canada, it’s available here here: https://www.justwatch.com/ca/movie/good-luck-to-you-leo-grande. That’s where I watched it.
I absolutely loved the premise of the show, that she hired a sex worker, and I loved both of their performances. I thought it was courageous on everyone’s part to do the scene where she is nude. That said, I completely understand her reticence, but I thought it lasted too long. It began to wear on me and I found it tedious. Kudos for everyone to have the courage to make this film.
I loved this movie and found it intensely moving.
I am also over 70 like some reviewers and feel as though one’s sexual life is not over and appreciated a film showing that. I also like my body better after seeing that it looks quite similar to Emma’s. Thank you Emma
That moment at the end with her in the mirror, instant tears of joy. As a surrogate partner, the mirror work they did together was familiar, but that moment at the end made me so happy. To see an older woman naked on film… I was rejoicing! And to have her give herself her first orgasm, solo… priceless!!! Yay! Betty Dodson would be proud.
Excellent commentary Joan! Baring it all- yes I so appreciate that she did. So powerful! It is rare to see a ‘regular’ woman’s body of any age. I think that her decision to do so will go a long way to helping women of all ages accept their bodies as they are.
I knew little about this film going in, and I was captivated throughout. All of that fear and trepidation, the gentleness and humor, getting through it, the raw emotions that carried through as things went sideways. They were both fantastic, I think it’s a real shame that it won’t have an opportunity for an Academy Award.
Thank you, Joan!