“How To Have Sex”


Metacritic (4/10), Letterboxd (2/5), Imdb.com (4/10), TMDB.com (4/10)

It’s truly disappointing when a film tackles a serious subject but mishandles the execution of the story associated with it. Such is the case with writer-director Molly Manning Walker’s debut feature about the troubling ramifications associated with undercooked decisions about adolescent sex. When a trio of British teens (Mia McKenna-Bruce, Lara Peake, Enva Lewis) embarks on a spring break-style vacation to the resort town of Malia on the island of Crete, they anticipate a raucous, fun-filled time of drinking, dancing and sexual hedonism. The last of those goals is especially important to Tara (McKenna-Bruce), the lone virgin in the group, who’s anxious to cross the threshold of becoming a woman. But, as she pursues the fulfillment of that objective, she finds the decision fraught with more complications than she anticipated, some of which weigh heavily upon her as she seeks to sort them out. That’s understandable, too, given the profound nature of this rite of passage. Unfortunately, that conundrum is couched in a narrative that’s fundamentally implausible. For starters, what parent in their right mind would give their minor child permission to go on such an unchaperoned journey as this, one that’s easily bound to be looked on as an exercise in reckless abandon? And then there’s the plot, which is riddled with clichés and predictability, telling a story that’s more than a little familiar. In fleshing out this trite narrative, the picture is filled with endless footage of screaming, unbalanced partygoers imbibing to excess, singing karaoke off-key and falling over when the night’s over. It’s also difficult to understand much of what the characters say, given their unruly drunken behavior and thick cockney accents, making them look and sound like a mob of rowdy, inarticulate soccer hooligans. Despite the gravity of the topic involved here, it’s hard to take this release seriously – and to maintain interest in the story and its characters – as the film unfolds. It’s even more puzzling how this important but shopworn material managed to captivate so many during the 2023 awards season with the honors and nominations it received at the Cannes Film Festival and in the BAFTA Awards competition. Had this offering been a little less obvious, it may have made its point more effectively, but there’s little here that we haven’t already seen many times before, weakening the significant message it’s seeking to convey.