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How to Have Sex review – an education in consent for 24 hour party people | Cannes 2023

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Full-on energy, likable performances and uncompromisingly daft jokes turbocharge this debut feature from British film-maker Molly Manning Walker, about three teenage girls up for the holiday of a lifetime in the party town of Malia in Crete, and trying not to think about the exam results which their parents could tactlessly text them at any moment.

The film delivers an intriguingly sympathetic, complex and even mysterious performance from Mia McKenna-Bruce as the shyest of the trio: Tara, whose face in closeup registers subtly shifting moods. For her, the quest for sex means more than for the others. She has still not had experience. Manning Walker herself coolly manages the film’s own mood, drifting towards crisis and retreating from it.

Tara, or Taz, and her mates Skye (Lara Peake) and Em (Enva Lewis) show up and get a room overlooking the pool in one of the resort hotels along Malia’s main street: at night pulsing with garish neon drunkenness and during the day eerily deserted, like the location for a gunfight in a western.

On one horrendously hungover morning on the balcony, Tara is aware of a young man on the next-door balcony looking at her. This is the goofy Badger (Shaun Thomas), there with his mates; he senses something of her loneliness and desperation to get sex out of the way. But of course Tara wants this to happen with the right candidate: it’s a moment for which, unlike A-levels, there are no retakes. Poor Badger naturally wants to pull himself – but in a million different ways puts himself in the friend zone with Tara, and part of their complex chemistry is that both perhaps want friendship more. It is Badger’s sexier, more boorish and insensitive mate Paddy (Samuel Bottomley) who takes Tara for a walk on the beach one night and meanwhile there is a connection between Em and a gay girl in the boys’ room: Paige (Laura Ambler).

But as the situation with Paddy progresses, amid the 24/7 bacchanal of pool parties and club nights led by robo-cheery reps, the exact nature of the resulting event is left in question, and the title itself assumes a multiple-meaning. With banteringly concealed envy Skye asks Tara how it was: “Did he throw you around and that?” Did he? Does Tara want to remember it that way? Does she want to remember it at all? Consent is ambiguous. The film shows that the post-sex phase in Tara’s mind is perhaps composed of an inner negotiation: should she forget it and move on? This is an interestingly unsentimental film, without the coming-of-age cliches, and one from which the three leads emerge stronger and happier than before.


Full-on energy, likable performances and uncompromisingly daft jokes turbocharge this debut feature from British film-maker Molly Manning Walker, about three teenage girls up for the holiday of a lifetime in the party town of Malia in Crete, and trying not to think about the exam results which their parents could tactlessly text them at any moment.

The film delivers an intriguingly sympathetic, complex and even mysterious performance from Mia McKenna-Bruce as the shyest of the trio: Tara, whose face in closeup registers subtly shifting moods. For her, the quest for sex means more than for the others. She has still not had experience. Manning Walker herself coolly manages the film’s own mood, drifting towards crisis and retreating from it.

Tara, or Taz, and her mates Skye (Lara Peake) and Em (Enva Lewis) show up and get a room overlooking the pool in one of the resort hotels along Malia’s main street: at night pulsing with garish neon drunkenness and during the day eerily deserted, like the location for a gunfight in a western.

On one horrendously hungover morning on the balcony, Tara is aware of a young man on the next-door balcony looking at her. This is the goofy Badger (Shaun Thomas), there with his mates; he senses something of her loneliness and desperation to get sex out of the way. But of course Tara wants this to happen with the right candidate: it’s a moment for which, unlike A-levels, there are no retakes. Poor Badger naturally wants to pull himself – but in a million different ways puts himself in the friend zone with Tara, and part of their complex chemistry is that both perhaps want friendship more. It is Badger’s sexier, more boorish and insensitive mate Paddy (Samuel Bottomley) who takes Tara for a walk on the beach one night and meanwhile there is a connection between Em and a gay girl in the boys’ room: Paige (Laura Ambler).

But as the situation with Paddy progresses, amid the 24/7 bacchanal of pool parties and club nights led by robo-cheery reps, the exact nature of the resulting event is left in question, and the title itself assumes a multiple-meaning. With banteringly concealed envy Skye asks Tara how it was: “Did he throw you around and that?” Did he? Does Tara want to remember it that way? Does she want to remember it at all? Consent is ambiguous. The film shows that the post-sex phase in Tara’s mind is perhaps composed of an inner negotiation: should she forget it and move on? This is an interestingly unsentimental film, without the coming-of-age cliches, and one from which the three leads emerge stronger and happier than before.

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