We never doubted that the new movie, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, would end with Emma Thompson making some happy noise and stretching her body in glorious satisfaction like a cat on a warm window sill. But it’s how she gets there that provides the tension and the heart of the story (and a bit of a surprise).
Inspired by Emma Thompson’s full-frontal bravery, we have launched the #NextTribeRealBodyChallenge. In a recent interview, Thompson said, “If you want to change the iconography of the female body, you need to be part of the change.” We are on board. Are you? Find out more here.
The movie follows Thompson’s character, Nancy (an alias), a former religion teacher, as she hires a sex worker named Leo Grande (also an alias) in search of things she never had in her many decades of life, namely sexual adventure and, most importantly, an orgasm. She admits to Leo that she faked orgasm for the 31 years of marriage, and even gives a demonstration of how she play-acted for her husband, and let’s say it’s on the opposite scale of intensity from Meg Ryan’s faked orgasm in When Harry Met Sally.
But it seems that her husband couldn’t have cared less if she was satisfied or not, which adds pathos to her predicament. We imagine that her situation might touch a nerve with all too many women. Because so much of what she experienced resonated with us, and we felt her frustration, her yearning, her joy.
The 5 Scenes That Touched Us Most
“It feels controversial even to want it.”
Nancy says this to Leo about sexual pleasure itself, but one of the most poignant moments comes later when she cries about having always wanting to experience oral sex. Eventually, Nancy presents Leo with a list of experiences she wants—including oral sex (both giving and receiving) and being on top. At first it seems amazing that a woman of our generation hasn’t given a blow job, had someone go “downtown,” or been on top. But it’s real, maybe more real than we know, and it’s heartbreaking.
How many of us have felt shame for admitting that we want to feel pleasure, that release?
How many of us have had trouble asking for what we want? How many of us have felt shame for admitting that we want to feel pleasure, that release? How many of us have refrained from directing our lovers to do something that would truly send us? Or always put our partner’s pleasure first? Or been cowed by a partner’s opinion? Nancy confides to Leo that her husband thought oral sex was demeaning. The rage-making aspect of her husband’s attitude is that he considered both receiving a blow job and pleasuring her as “demeaning to him.” Ho wonder Nancy is wound tight.
“I want that feeling again back, of having it all before me.”
Nancy makes this statement as she processes the time she has wasted following rules, living a dull life. But even though she’s tied in knots with regret for her overly circumspect life, Nancy gets to explore liberation with Leo. Nancy’s experience makes it clear that it’s better late than never. That even though we’re not young, we still can experience excitement. She tells Leo their sexual exploration has made her feel more alive than ever, and we can imagine she now has room for more adventures, more thrills. She seems to have recaptured that glorious feeling that anything is possible
“Pleasure is a wonderful thing. It’s something we should all have.”
Nancy’s experience makes it clear that it’s better late than never.
There’s a wonderful scene at the end when Nancy runs into one of her students. Besides asking for forgiveness for some past slut-shaming, she makes this pronouncement. It reminds us that sexual shame is the worst kill joy. How did something so natural and enjoyable come packed with so much baggage?
“Oh, imagine how much less BS there would be,” Leo says, meaning in the world if we could be honest about our joy in sexual pleasure. In an interview with NPR, Thompson says she agrees with that idea, and adds, “And I also imagine how much less sexual violence there would be.”
That overhead shot—while Leo looks for a sex toy.
When Nancy finally achieves the Holy Grail, we were as satisfied as she because she took a path that was completely in tune with the whole emotional push of the story.
Emma Thompson, full frontal.
This should be a pivotal moment in our own acceptance of our own less-than-perfect bodies.
Anyone who feels bad about her body, who worries about a midsection that has never un-thickened since birthing babies, needs to witness Emma Thompson considering her naked body in this film. It is a revelation. The Us magazine line about celebrities being “just like us” comes to mind. Thompson’s body looks completely familiar—not extraordinary, not altered or enhanced. Her bravery to expose herself in full light and for a lot longer than a flickering second in some bed linens should encourage us all. This should be a pivotal moment in our own acceptance of our own less-than-perfect bodies.
It certainly is pivotal for Nancy’s character. Earlier in the film, she confesses that she had always felt terrible about her body. When Thompson talked to NPR, she said that this scene, which was her idea, shows her “looking at her body without any filters. She’s seeing it for the first time as her home, the place where she lives, the place where she can experience joy on her own or with someone else should she choose.”
We should all be so lucky to achieve such ease, such acceptance, such a smile like the one Nancy wears.