Wednesday, January 03, 2024


Writer-director Molly Manning Walker's debut feature is an astonishingly raw, brave and affecting drama about a teenage girl's summer holiday turned horror.  I am unsurprised to learn that Manning Walker won the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes for her work, and can't wait to see what she does next.

The film stars Mia McKenna-Bruce as Tara, a sixteen-year old girl hoping to have some post-exam summer fun in Crete.  She is travelling with her two best friends, but we soon learn that friendship only goes so far when you both fancy the same boy.  We root for Tara to hook up with Badger (Shaun Thomas), who at least seems to have something of a moral conscience, but she inevitably ends up with his friend Paddy (Samuel Bottomley) who it is implied is more typical of the kind of guy you are going to meet on a party island.  Molly Manning Walker unflinchingly shows us the misogyny and sexual violence embedded in toxic holiday destinations like Cancun and the Med resorts. The most brutal part of all of this is how it manifests in the girls - the internalised misogyny of shaming someone for being a virgin, and the internalised pressure to have sex. You watch in terror as you realise the inevitable outcome of lots of booze, lots of pressure, and high-risk situations. All of this is portrayed with complete credibility by McKenna-Bruce and culminates in a final heartbreaking scene in an airport where she confesses the reality of what happened to her, and the evasive, equivocal reaction of her best friend. If you weren't worried about how teenagers think about consent before watching, you will be when you leave.

HOW TO HAVE SEX is rated 15 and has a running time of 91 minutes. It played Cannes and the BFI London Film Festival in 2023 and was released in the UK on December 29th. It will play Sundance 2024 before a February 2nd release.

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