Nancy Stokes has never had an orgasm. The retired religion teacher wants to change that and orders a call boy. Emma Thompson stars as a widow in search of sexual fulfillment in "Leo."
When the knock comes, Nancy Stokes (fantastic: Emma Thompson) looks tense. She straightens her skirt again, takes a deep breath, opens the door of her hotel room and is suddenly faced with a beautiful young man. Leo Grande ("Peaky Blinders" star Daryl McCormack) is a callboy booked by the retired religion teacher, who has only had sex with her late husband in her life - extremely dispassionate sex in the missionary position, mind you. Not a single orgasm has emerged from the 31 years of marriage, only two grown children who, if she is completely honest, she could do without.
"When my husband died, I vowed never to fake it again," Nancy tells the young man as she sits awkwardly on the sofa. But she doesn't care about an orgasm either. Rather, she wants to be "worldly" in the last third of her life, as she puts it. And a woman of the world has sex, in the best case even good sex. After extensive research, Nancy has made a list of exactly what she wants from Leo Grande: blowjobs, doggy style, 69 position...
Their first meeting in particular is fascinating to watch: Nancy is a planner, nervous, tense and full of contradictions. She obviously wants to implement her plan, but she is ashamed of her body and her lust. Leo on the other hand is a professional through and through, he takes pride in the service he provides and carries it out with passion. With his calm demeanor and the right choice of words, he at least partially manages to calm down the upset Nancy. And so, at first, the two literally dance around the sex.
The fact that she resorts to something as taboo as sex work in her search for sexual fulfillment also poses a moral dilemma for the reflective pensioner. For a moment she is visibly relieved when he pretends to her that his career choice is only to finance his studies. But while Leo Grande, whose real name is different, just wants to do the job he was hired to do, Nancy bombards him with personal questions and pushes the boundaries that the call boy is trying to uphold. Finally, by invading his privacy, she causes an abrupt change of mood and provides the necessary dose of drama in the plot.
"My Lessons With Leo" is no flat mainstream comedy in which a woman in her mid-sixties fucks an attractive call boy in every imaginable position and screams herself hoarse in sheer ecstasy. It's also not a love story in which the two main characters end up getting together. Rather, the film is a character study of Emma Thompson's character as she learns how to become one with herself as she ages. Instead of sexually graphic scenes, the focus is on serious, believable conversations between a troubled woman and a sensitive prostitute. Thompson and McCormack share tremendous chemistry, but the Brit does most of the heavy lifting.
With Nancy, the Australian director Sophie Hyde has focused her film on a person with all her insecurities and longings, who normally hardly gets any attention on screen because of her gender and age. Finally, a stark naked Nancy gazes at herself in the mirror with ease. "It's been the hardest thing I've ever had to do," Thompson admitted at this year's Berlinale. When she stands in front of the mirror, she "can't just stand there" - "I pull in something, turn to the side (...) That's terrible. But that's the problem, isn't it?" Many women are brainwashed throughout their lives to hate their bodies. The fact that the 63-year-old dared to take this step gave the tragic comedy an incredibly touching ending.