Dir/Wri: Molly Manning Walker | Cast: Mia McKenna-Bruce, Lara Peake, Enva Lewis, Samuel Bottomley, Shaun Thomas, Finlay Vane Last, Guy Lewis | UK Drama 91′
What sounds like a cinematic instruction manual soon turns out to be predictable revelation about how little has changed since we were all teenagers. Giggling, dancing, getting drunk (and even throwing up) is still par for the course for the kids in Molly Manning Walker’s dynamic feature debut set on a Butlin’s-style holiday camp in the sun-drenched Greek island of Crete.
The London-born writer-director, who cut her own teeth as a cinematographer of Charlotte Regan’s film Scrapper, shows there is still the same vulnerability and uncertainty in this story about girls grasping the nettle of supreme social confidence while everything around them is still weird and unpredictable.
Tara, Skye and Em You are the teen trio at the heart of How to Have Sex. Don’t expect to see anything naughty as Nicolas Canniccioni’s rolling camera drifts more over faces and tender expressions than actual nude bodies, although these girls are certainly attractive with their bronzed limbs and complexions in the bloom of youth. Tara (a brilliant McKenna-Bruce) does form a bond with a guy called Badger (Shaun Thomas) and then she gets close to Paddy (Bottomley), but theirs is a muddled encounter that leads to disillusion rather than jubilation leaving her off kilter and bemused by that thing called love. And the same goes for her relationship with Skye (Lara Peake), Manning Walker makes the sage observation that while girls can be best buddies they can also be bitter rivals.
Tara’s needling desire to put her first sexual experience to bed drives the drama forward as she negotiates the subtle art of flirting and seducing on the day-glo dance floor, to a thrumming soundscape. Script-wise, Manning Walker opts for an intuitive aperçu of adolescent life rather than anything gripping but this acutely observed and poignant generational expose really nails the innocence, cockiness and sheer abandon of youth. @MeredithTaylor
MUBI BLU-RAY and DVD release on 12 February 2024