How to Have Sex – the movie

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Film Review: “How to Have Sex”

A Powerful Exploration of Youth, Consent, and Friendship by Molly Manning Walker wins Cannes Un Certain Regard


“How to Have Sex” is a deeply moving film that delves into the lives of a group of teenagers on the cusp of entering college. Set in the UK, the film captures the cultural context of these characters, who have just completed their GCSE exams and embark on a wild vacation to celebrate the end of their high school years. Amidst their desire to have a memorable time, the film skillfully explores themes of friendship, sexuality, and the harsh realities that can accompany youthful naivety.

The standout element of the film is the exceptional performance by Mia McKenna Bruce, who portrays the main character, Tara. Initially presented as a slightly irritating party girl, Bruce’s portrayal evolves throughout the film, capturing Tara’s transformation after a traumatic experience. This shift in character is handled with nuance and subtlety, as Bruce skillfully depicts Tara’s withdrawal and introspection, showcasing the profound impact of her harrowing encounter.

The film begins with a seemingly carefree depiction of the characters’ adventures in Malia, reminiscent of reality TV shows like “Love Island.” However, the narrative takes a dark and unexpected turn when Tara, determined to lose her virginity, experiences a sexual encounter that defies her expectations. The subsequent events force her to confront the aftermath and process the emotional trauma she has endured.

While the film admirably touches upon important themes, such as consent and the complexities of power dynamics, it does so in a manner that feels somewhat familiar. In recent years, there has been an abundance of independent films and TV shows exploring similar territory, examining the blurred lines of consent and the challenges faced by young people navigating relationships. In this sense, “How to Have Sex” lacks the complexity and depth of some of its contemporaries, such as Michaela Coel’s remarkable TV series “I May Destroy You,” which tackles similar subjects with a multifaceted approach.

One aspect that could have been further developed is the exploration of how Tara’s experience affects her relationships with her friends. The film hints at the strain on their dynamic, but it only scratches the surface of this intriguing aspect. By delving deeper into the aftermath and the ripple effects on their friendships, the film could have added another layer of complexity to its narrative.

Despite these minor shortcomings, “How to Have Sex” remains a well-made and emotionally impactful film. It offers a poignant glimpse into the challenges faced by young people who are grappling with their desires and attempting to navigate the complexities of consent. The performances are outstanding, particularly Mia McKenna Bruce’s portrayal of Tara’s journey from exuberance to introspection. The film successfully captures the essence of youthful aspirations and the harsh realities that can arise when these aspirations collide with the complexities of the world.

In conclusion, “How to Have Sex” is a thought-provoking film that tackles sensitive themes with sensitivity and emotional depth. While it may not break new ground in its exploration of consent and youth, it remains a powerful portrayal of the consequences that can arise from youthful exuberance and the importance of open communication in navigating relationships. With exceptional performances and a compelling narrative, this film is sure to leave a lasting impact on its audience.