Let’s get an escort.
We follow Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson) as she has her first (and subsequent) encounters with high class escort Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack). Nancy, a former religious morality teacher and sexually repressed widow has not had any sort of sexual encounter since her husband passed some years ago. To call Nancy oppressed is a bit of an understatement, we learn that she lived according to the religious doctrine, and limited herself in almost every way. She resents her children (at least to an extent) and has begun to realize she has missed out on so much of life. Not only is she repressed, but we learn how she continued the cycle of repression in her role as an education.
Leo, on the other hand, is a saint of sexual liberation. Patient, intelligent, and kind are his key characteristics (and he could make Adonis blush). Leo willingly walks Nancy through her fears and helps her find herself. Though the journey is not easy. Nancy is tense, inconsistent, and quick to irritate. Leo takes it mostly in stride as he sees what he does as a professional service, which is an underlying theme of the movie.
Taking sex work as a professional need and a social service is something sex workers have argued for in the past. I’m pro-sex worker. If you’re the type who is against the profession you are probably not going to agree with this review nor enjoy this movie; The safety concerns in this line of work are extreme, and need to be addressed. The film dabbles in this message by presenting us a safe look into the world, almost all of which is in a hotel.
This is a small film that speaks to larger issues, but keeps the meat of the drama on these two people. I think it could work as a stage play, and I say that as a compliment. In our new world of CGI and bigger-is-better filmmaking it was refreshing to see a story that only has the story to make its point. There is no flashiness here. We also have no fluff. The narrative says what it wants and is done. A lesser filmmaking team would have bloated this beyond its scope and ruined it. Here, we have actors and a crew in control of what they want to tell.
Witty dialogue and humorous moments lighten the often tense scenes as we see Nancy revert to her indoctrinated self frequently, and it takes a lot of time for her to begin to trust herself. Leo’s patience is amazing, and I made the mistake of looking at other reviews and saw that this is a critique. If we accept that Leo is a professional who sees this job as his career then he is simply very good at it. I disagree with the idea that an escort can’t also be someone who is gentle, smart, and patient. This is not to say all escorts are like him–that would be simplifying a complex issue.
For the story to work, Leo needed to be the right person for Nancy. I guess we could have placated the naysayers by showing Nancy meeting several escorts and not liking them, but would that have worked? Would it have made the movie better? If Leo were cruel or impatient she would have been scared away and he would have lost a client, and we a film.
I guess this is just a long way of me saying that I don’t think sex workers can’t be good people. Those critiquing Leo as a person seem to be making that sort of argument.
Anyway, back to the film. Almost the entire film is shot in a hotel room. We have brief moments outside of this suite and this makes the film very tight. However, it also means we have to keep things moving. The dialogue works here. We do have our characters sometimes move about for no reason (well, the reason is to change the scene up a bit). However, we also have the ready-made reason for them to want to move from couch to bed. This is a light nitpick about an otherwise interesting and well made movie. I appreciated the story and was blown away by both leads. They each do fantastic work.
I liked the film a lot. It may end up as one of the year’s best. I think if you’re in the mood for a thoughtful and serious dramedy about sexuality that has something to say this will be a great fit. Honestly, the film is just a refreshing and human story that needs to be told.
Give it a go!