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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

How to Have Sex (MA) - 91 minute

Consent. That is the issue at the core of the coming-of-age drama How to Have Sex.

 

Frankly, it is a film that needs to be seen by teenagers and their parents and grandparents.

 

All seems to be going as it does when youngsters let their hair down, until a line is crossed and after that there is no coming back.

 

Three 16-year-olds British girls – Tara (Mia Mckenna-Bruce), Skye (Lara Peake) and Em (Enva Lewis) – take a trip to the Greek party resort of Malia.

Tara is the only one amongst them who is a virgin and she wants to break her duck.

 

All three let their hair down – they swim, smoke, drink to excess, go clubbing and don’t reveal their real age.

 

Em hooks up with another girl, Paige (Laura Ambler).

 

Skye hangs about with intent and Tara hits it off with a guy who is all but touching distance away – on the neighbouring hotel balcony.

Nicknamed Badger (Shaun Thomas), first appearances paint him as rougher than he turns out to be.

 

Like the girls, he too drinks too much and parties hard, but remains respectful, until he participates in a sexually charged public game that doesn’t impress Tara.

 

Badger is on the island with a childhood mate, Paddy (Samuel Bottomley). They live in the same street and their mothers are best friends.

 

Paddy takes advantage of a vulnerable Tara, after which – understandably – her demeanour changes.

Her withdrawn nature hides a welter of emotions as what went down plays out over and over in her head.

 

And yet there is more in store.

 

Meanwhile, unaware of the real circumstances, Skye simply plays up the fact that Tara is no longer a virgin.

 

Em, on the other hand, comes to understand the magnitude of what happened  to Tara on Malia.

What we see in How to Have Sex has all the appearance of an everyday reality.

 

Yet, I can’t countenance the fact that three 16-year-old girls are allowed to travel on their own to a party island.


I kept reflecting on schoolies on the Gold Coast, where I imagine the teens would be at least a year or two older.

 

Nevetheless, the same thing could quite conceivably happen to a 17 or 18-year-old as what occurs with Tara … and, of course, that is the whole point.

First time filmmaker Molly Manning Walker makes a significant impression with a well-considered screenplay and direction.

 

She has deliberately built elements of ambiguity into the script.

 

It was inspired by reminiscences of a rite of passage trip she took to a Mediterranean party resort where the sexual pressure was tangible.

 

Mia Mckenna-Bruce transitions Tara well from loud and carefree to circumspect and troubled.

Lara Peake paints a less than sympathetic portrait of Skye, while Enva Lewis appears far more empathetic as Em.

 

Shaun Thomas brings layers to Badger and Samuel Bottomley at best showcases narcissism and entitlement as Paddy.

 

As Director of Photography, Nicolas Canniccioni readily paints a raucous and salacious environment.

 

Composer James Jacob’s score adds authenticity.

 

While a distressing watch, How to Have Sex has an important story to tell and it tells it well.

 

Rated MA, it scores an 8 out of 10.

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