Featuring: Mia McKenna-Bruce, Shaun Thomas, Lara Peake, Enva Lewis, Samuel Bottomley, Laura Ambler, Anna Antoniades, Daisy Jelley, Finlay Vane Last, Eilidh Loan, Elliot Warren
Director: Molly Manning Walker
In Cinemas: 3rd November 2023
Set against the chaotic party scene of Malia, three British teenage girls – Tara (Mia McKenna-Bruce), Skye (Lara Peake), and Em (Enva Lewis) – go on a rites-of-passage holiday, drinking, clubbing and hooking up in what should be the best summer of their lives. As they dance their way through the hazy clubs, hectic pool parties and sun-drenched streets of the strip, they find themselves navigating the complexities of sex, consent, self-discovery and friendships old and new.
How to Have Sex is Molly Manning Walker’s Feature-length Directorial debut, which she also wrote and won the Un Certain Regard prize at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. She also provided cinematography for ‘Scrapper’ (2023), which was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, so she is having a very successful and busy year. Inspiration came to Walker about this film at a wedding, surrounded by school friends and reminiscing about a party holiday at a Mediterranean resort. Her approach in making this film gives off the appeal of an upfront and bare-bones account of the experiences of an end-of-school term holiday. There is nothing artistic or strikingly different about her method of visually displaying the plot; instead, it has a wholesome and organic element that becomes natural when comparing it to personal experiences of holidaying abroad. There are moments when the girls are excited when they first enter their accommodation and when they fabricate or exaggerate stories to add humour to the current situation. Every scene has a strong sense of realism, slowly making the film relatable to previous lived experiences. There are parts where nothing happens in the story; the girls would sit around drinking or go swimming, and it is so normalised that it again creates that authenticity.
It leaves you with an impactful and clear opinion about how society perceives certain things. The central plot line in this film is about Tara (Mia McKenna-Bruce) and her experience as a victim of an unlawful act, the implications of dealing with it, and how some people would look the other way when things go wrong. It also is a devastating glance at coming to terms with something personal. Tara (McKenna-Bruce), our central character and who we follow throughout the movie, can upsettingly display her emotions without being too obvious or causing a commotion about her experience. Mia McKenna-Bruce gives an outstanding performance and explores the characteristics and traits of naivety and obnoxiousness from a young teenage girl’s standpoint in her new, unfamiliar surroundings. She brilliantly gives an excellent account of the darker sides of her character and the emotional aspects of the experiences she encounters. She never goes over the top in transforming her feelings and almost secludes them in trying to prevent herself from being a hindrance. to herself and her friends, which is crucial when observing the ongoing event. It is almost like a ‘put yourself in someone else shoes’ situation’. How can you deal with something harrowing without coping mechanisms or previous experience?
There is always that devastating clashing of thoughts from our character, wanting to come out and say something but shutting it down in her head and compartmentalising it. She is dealing with trauma in a complicated way that she is so good at encapsulating that physically. Ultimately, How To Have Sex is an incredibly believable and natural film; it never loses that central perspective from Tara as a Character. This creates an unsettling environment for her when she has had unpleasant experiences, and everything is hinting at her to forget about it and substitute it with positive thoughts. Molly Manning Walker develops and explores that false sense of security between our characters and the likelihood of this factuality happening. It becomes challenging to watch at times due to the reality of it. This doesn’t feel like a Directorial debut; it is made effortlessly and deals with a sensitive subject that will stay with you.