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How To Have Sex ★★★★



Director: Molly Manning Walker

Cast: Mia McKenna-Bruce, Shaun Thomas, Lara Peake, Enva Lewis, Samuel Bottomley, Laura Ambler

Release: 3rd November 2023

Sadly, there is no guide to follow when growing up. Instead, we are left to follow the crowd, to experiment and continue to learn from every single experience – the good and the bad. Molly Manning Walker’s directorial debut, How to Have Sex, is a nostalgic and insightful look into our youth. Yet, it also provides a raw insight into our pressures as early adolescents.

The film takes place roughly over what appears to be a couple of days where three teen girls are high on life as they head to their hotel room in Malia, Greece. Their obvious estheticism is infectious. As an audience, we perhaps can relate in a way our thoughts reminisce on that first wild holiday or a night out your parents allowed you to go on. Tara (Mia McKenna Bruce), Em (Enva Lewis) and Skye (Lara Peake) are ready to explore their youth but are using their holiday as an avoidance technique whilst they await their GCSE results. To forget about their impending fates, they use the waiting game to neck some shots, party until it’s time for cheesy chips and begin their journey of sexual awakenings.

Tara is the trio’s last remaining virgin; her friends hope this is the trip to change that. Skye, in particular, perceives the idea of Tara not having her cherry popped as uncool as she throws in little jabs and tells others of her sexual status. Next door is three other partygoers: Badger (Shaun Thomas), Paddy (Samuel Bottomley) and Paige (Laura Ambler), and the sexual pressures grow more intense as they intertwine as one big group. As Tara sees potential in both Badger and Paddy, it’s clear the latter starts to make Tara feel overwhelmed and pressured into having a good time.

How to Have Sex is plenty more than just its title. It’s complex—a representation of modern-day struggles. As the film progresses, it transpires to be painful to watch. It will trigger something inside you whether you have gone through this experience or something similar. The toxic culture of sex and partying has rarely been represented within the film; it’s refreshing to have a narrative that gets it right. Manning Walker has created a piece of art that explores the hardships of something that is torture to the soul. The kind of stories you hear about on social media or in the news is never cemented in a visual narrative.

Mia McKenna Bruce is a name you will have heard of before How to Have Sex. You might recognise her from the iconic BBC kids show Tracy Beaker Returns or Netflx’s Persuasion, but we will no doubt be hearing much more from her. Some critics have questioned whether the 25-year-old fit the role correctly, but that’s the point. Tara and her gang want to appear older and taken seriously, just like the youth of this generation – the subversion between the image inside one’s head and reality. McKenna-Bruce’s performance is achingly stunning in the film, simply put.

Is sex cool? No. Sometimes. Kind of. When represented in the right way. Can the pressures feel immensely overwhelming? One hundred per cent, yes! How to Have Sex is a film that explores a generational issue that we can relate to even as we get older. Molly Manning Walker’s debut is strong, showing the reality of adulthood. Growing up is complex and, at times, utterly devastating.

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