In “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande there are only two characters: Nancy, a fine vintage widow who has never experienced any form of sexual pleasure, and Leo, a young handsome man who wants to give her just that, and get paid for it.[1] The film explores their intimate encounters in the same hotel room, going beyond an exploration of feminist sex positivity.

Nancy has many questions: how does Leo feel about her?; how does he feel about his work?; how long has he done it for?; how many clients does he have?; will he need Viagra?; has he ever failed at it?; does his mother know what he does for a living?; does he find it degrading? She finds it degrading. Leo tries to cut through the interrogation by suggesting a drink, a dance. The viewer gets a sense she is his most difficult client yet.

Nancy is shocked when Leo finds something sexually attractive about her body. He sees beauty where she cannot. Leo keeps trying to set the mood, to engage her in relaxation, but Nancy keeps bursting the chemistry bubble with her needle of truth. Leo reminds Nancy she is not paying for the truth, she is paying for a fantasy. Nancy insists and he gives in to her demand for knowledge.

Leo tells Nancy he enjoys providing his services and has never lost an erection, not even with an eighty-two year old client. He loves seeing the pleasure in his clients’ faces. “The body goes with it. Everything loosens. It’s so beautiful!” Leo closes his eyes whilst telling Nancy. He sees beauty in the diversity of sexual practices and is very proud to enable unique modes of satisfaction.

Are we in the realm of feminine jouissance? Is Leo, in fact, able to access this otherness that is almost unthinkable to Nancy who believes herself to be so undesirable? Nancy cannot compute it since it doesn’t fit within a phallic logic. Leo is not a pervert. He is a stunning, charming and well educated young man who uses clever words. Leo doesn’t need to be doing this job, but he loves it!

By the second encounter their relationship deepens. “If I knew it, I would not have done it,” Nancy confesses to Leo. “My children are like dead weights hanging from my neck.For Nancy, her babies were initially objects of satisfaction, but now as grown-ups her offspring fail her. For Brousse, the desire of the mother is underpinned by the phallic function, circulating in the speaking body and transforming part of real jouissance into phallic jouissance. In voiding the mother, Leo offers Nancy another solution: “desire, outside meaning, taking possession of the body via the window of fantasy”.[2] This is what Nancy finds overwhelming. It is unknown to her. “I could have done many things if I hadn’t become a mother, like having an orgasm,” Nancy declares.

Here is a man on the side of the feminine, accessing the mysterious mode of the not-all jouissance. Nancy, the woman, on the other hand, needs knowledge and as a result is possessed with some kind of madness, she needs to know the truth of him–this cannot possibly be! According to Lacan’s formulas of sexuation, one could argue Nancy is the man and Leo is the woman: “one is not obliged, when one is male, to situate oneself on the side of “xΦx”. One can also situate oneself on the side of the not-all.”[3]

[1] Good Luck to you Leo Grande, directed by Sophie Hyde ( 2022; UK-US, Searchlight pictures,

[2] Brousse, M.-H. The Feminine: A Mode of Jouissance, World Association of Psychoanalysis Libretto Series, transl. Janet Rachel (New York: Lacanian Press, 2022), 32.

[3] Lacan, J. Anxiety: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book X, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. A.R. Price (Cambridge: Polity, 2014), 76.