How to Have Sex
Molly Manning Walker’s debut feature, following three teen girls on a holiday in Malia, is a remarkable feat in modern social realism
Molly Manning Walker’s ominous and affecting debut How To Have Sex is The Inbetweeners Movie’s indie, introspective upgrade. A bubbly trio of teen girls take a rite-of-passage holiday to Malia as they await the release of their dreaded GCSE results. But after befriending older boys, their coming-of-age escapades mutate into formative trauma.
How To Have Sex is a remarkable feat in modern social realism – polyester Pretty Little Thing dresses and propulsive Joel Corry club tunes create evocative mise-en-scène. Anyone who’s been on a debaucherous holiday like this might find it triggering. From the end-of-night cheesy chips and slurred proclamations of sisterhood, to the overpopulated hotel pools and overzealous reps promoting suggestive drinking games, the feverish saturnalia is too real.
Mia McKenna-Bruce’s stunningly natural and nuanced central performance as Tara controls devastating subtleties, whether during a dissociative episode while partying or when registering a friend’s shallow power move in real-time. Walker plots trepidation and sobering fallout – imagine Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents but with more sombre psychic shifts. Rousing chants of “Ooh ah Ma-lia! Said, oh ah Ma-lia!” take on a sinister ring, and the party strip transforms from neon-nightlife fantasy to grim morning reality, where strewn empty cans border the desolate street and create a portrait of apocalyptic, eerie stillness, framing an anxious young Tara.
This formidable new piece of British filmmaking is essential viewing for any young person; if schools can get past the film’s provocative title, PSE syllabi would benefit from its powerful insight into sexual assault.
Released 3 Nov by MUBI; certificate 15
How to Have Sex screens at Summerhall, Edinburgh, 7 Oct and CCA, Glasgow, 8 Oct as part of the CineSkinny Film Club – for free tickets, head to theskinny.co.uk/tickets