Winner of the Un Certain Regard prize at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, How to Have Sex is a vibrant and authentic depiction of the agonies, ecstasies and ride-or-die glory of young female friendship, from rising British filmmaker Molly Manning Walker.
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.
Captured with luminous visuals and a pitch-perfect soundtrack, Manning Walker’s directorial debut marks the arrival of a sensational new acting talent in Mia McKenna-Bruce, who delivers a stunning central performance. Compassionate and delicately-handled, this confronting take on the outrageous excesses of teenage holidays paints a painfully familiar portrait of young adulthood, and how first sexual experiences should – or shouldn’t – play out.
The Garden Cinema View:
How to Have Sex is authentic to a fault. Molly Manning Walker delivers, on debut, a laser focused exploration of brits abroad holiday culture which also raises urgent and universal questions surrounding consent and peer pressure. Walker’s control of tone, the performances of her cast, and the sense of place, lend the film an intense air of realism which configures the viewing experience into something quite stressful and deeply uncomfortable. The film is neither exploitative nor sadistic. Rather it is saddening and invites personal reflection.
This is impressive work, and is an important contribution to UK cinema that will start many necessary conversations. But due to the above reasons, viewers should be aware that the film is likely to be extremely triggering for some.
Contains scenes of sexual assault.