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Teenage kicks get a timely #MeToo treatment in writer/director Molly Manning Walker’s punchy first feature. Winner of the Un Certain Regard prize at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, How to Have Sex is a vividly shot, sharp-eyed take on the drunken post-GCSE Mediterranean getaway that is traditionally a frenzied Inbetweeners-style rite of passage for British teens.
Hungry for parties, passion and fishbowl cocktails, BFFs Em (Enva Lewis), Skye (Lara Peake, TV’s Mood) and Tara (Mia McKenna-Bruce, Vampire Academy) throw themselves recklessly into Malia’s frenetic tourist nightlife. Walker’s fearless camera dives after them into bacchanalian pool parties, shrieking karaoke sessions and neon-strobed bars thumping with EDM.
When the pals team up with their hard-partying hotel neighbors, goofy Badger (The Selfish Giant‘s Shaun Thomas) and self-styled shagger Paddy (Samuel Bottomley, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie), the film skilfully tracks the sudden cracks in the trio’s friendship, as they vie for these Northern likely lads’ attention.
Tensions are ratcheted even higher when bubbly Tara, the baby of the group, suddenly finds herself unwittingly swept into a chaotic night or two of bad choices and tough truths.
Alongside the wild carousing and sweary banter, the unflinching close-ups of McKenna-Bruce’s wary, watchful face showcase how her piercing performance covers Tara’s disorientation with wobbly bravado (kudos too to cinematographer Nicolas Canniccioni).
Refusing to become a cautionary tale, How to Have Sex explores the pitfalls as well as the pleasures of teen-holiday hook-ups; it also brings an admirably fresh, female POV to the subject of sexual consent.
How to Have Sex opens in UK cinemas on November 3. Read our interview with the cast and director here.