How to Have Sex

How to Have Sex
How to Have Sex
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Molly Manning-Walker’s first film, an educational eye-opener How to Have Sex has a bit of the feeling of a documentary series on BBC Three called Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents that was canceled. It was a small but significant phase in British screen culture whereby a group of fun-loving, party-going young adults descended on a Mediterranean party island “blissfully unaware about every single step they made being watched with their drunkedness and immorality by their parents.” The storyline is about British teenage boys and girls who are off the leash for the first time in their lives during summer holiday.

Events begin to unfold in Malia, Crete which is where we meet our leading character Tara (played brilliantly by Mia McKenna-Bruce) together with her two best friends Em (Enva Lewis) and Skye (Lara Peake) as they go out for their first holiday trip without their parents. For those unfamiliar with Malia strip’s neon-infused glow, it’s just another seedy boulevard lined up with drinking joints and college kids throwing up all night long. These animated characters with different personalities therefore enjoy this little piece of liberty coming into terms with a fast pace lifestyle filled joyfully through this Mediterranean land full of indulgences; well at least for Tara.

The depiction then links to another group that decides to go down the same path towards self-discovery. Among others they meet three Northern men led by Badger (Shaun Thomas), blond-peroxide haired bloke as well as Paddy (Samuel Bottomley) and Paige (Laura Ambler) who happen to be staying next door in their mingy hotel complex right close to the girls’ troop. As usual, these groups of six form emotional ties that stretch beyond physical boundaries or even generations like minded young holidaymakers bring forth new relationships between themselves. If only alcohol hadn’t clouded memories so much and left the feeling of disorientation and fear surrounding unconsented sex.

Molly Manning-Walker, with both directorial and writing credits, was able to embody these massive raves into a disorderly teenage state of mind through Tara’s eyes as a 16-year-old girl, confused by hormones, peer pressure and an uncertain future following her GCSE results. The film captures perfectly who Tara is more through Mia McKenna-Bruce’s screen presence than through any words she speaks; it is also significant that she didn’t say anything at all. It would not take much for one to see just how much the actress has grown from an initially fun loving, outgoing and communicatively vivacious persona to an isolated non-verbal shell who is marked by what happened in Malia.

This delightful central character’s portrayal by McKenna-Bruce shifts from being initially very likeable as cheerful and proactive to becoming completely withdrawn from communication with other people after the vacation. Consequently How to Have Sex provides a deeply visceral or almost introspective experience where Tara retreats inwardly within herself far away from the chaotic place she finds herself in haunted by the loss of her innocence and young naivety.

When Tara finally gets around to answering questions about her virginity it’s not nearly as fairytale as we have been led to believe. The two sexual experiences she has had were ambivalent, with consent and blurred areas surrounding rape cases. Through empathy, Manning-Walker approaches this sensitive theme without taking away from the awful situations that Tara faces on screen.

The second paragraph of the text is a statement that How to Have Sex is an absolutely accurate reflection of how many women (and men) feel when they are unsure about what amounts to consent or non-consent, and then realize in dismay that they were raped. It is such a bone-chilling drama; one that teaches men that rape isn’t always just when a woman takes a “no” stand, but the impliedness of actions, mannerisms and signals that go far beyond showing where a woman stands.

In the aftermath of Hollywood’s sexual assault crisis, How to Have Sex comes across as timely and subtly executed film reminding us of the immense power movies have over our cultural perceptions. In 2016 alone there were one hundred and thirty three thousand two hundred ninety four reported cases of sexual assault and rape in the United States making this season a perfect time for such a movie premier but also everyone especially teenagers must watch it.

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