How to Have Sex is either a cautionary tale or a party movie with a heart or, maybe, it’s both.
Three happy-go-lucky young women kick off their holiday in Malia, Crete by immediately delving into drinks and dancing. The getaway acts as a scholarly send-off that will finally allow the teens to let their hair down before their next academic chapter. The unbreakable bond they have allows the women to be comfortable with each other; openly discussing their partygoing and sexually-driven intentions for their trip. Well, at least for Skye and Em (Laura Peake and Enva Lewis). Tara (Mia McKenna-Bruce) clams up when the topic is brought up despite her being the most outgoing of them all. The girls meet their hotel neighbours, another friend clique who are as in good spirits. It doesn’t take long for the two clans to click and exchange flirtatious advances.
Taking place within their week in Malia, How to Have Sex captures an infectiously carefree atmosphere, pulsating with exciting fun (reminiscent of the Canadian indie Travis Turner or Netflix’s underrated flick Ibiza). The teenage friendships are very convincing and the performances have an entertaining range; finding opportunities to allow their characters to be naturally funny or provocative no matter how inebriated their characters may be.
A little over halfway through How to Have Sex, the film’s direction seems “up for grabs”; referring to the loose narrative and where this trip could wind up. Filmmaker Molly Manning Walker decides to take a dramatic, triggering turn to acknowledge the risks of peer pressure and the importance of clear consent. When Tara’s “first time” happens unexpectedly with someone she couldn’t have predicted, she’s undoubtably rattled. How to Have Sex stays loyal to its easygoing atmosphere, but deliberately drifts as often as Tara loses herself in her own shock; embracing the character drama that McKenna-Bruce has been challenged with and succeeds tremendously in portraying. We see how her personality changes – how heartbroken she is towards her trauma, how frustrated she is towards other people who get to enjoy mutual intimacy. The quality of Mia McKenna-Bruce’s acting is on par with Vanessa Kirby Oscar-nominated work in Pieces of a Woman, which is really impressive.
The film is disguised very well as a coming-of-age story. Even though this personal change Tara experiences happens fast over a shortened timeframe, How to Have Sex doesn’t lose its power and encourages movie goers to never fear reaching out for help.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie