Young girls, British or otherwise, past and present, will talk about love and being left out of it, that’s the first thing I notice in Molly Manning Walker’s How To Have Sex, a film about three girls. A misnomer of a title. These three girls, by the way, are vacationing in Malia, Greece, flying southward like past generations have. Someone who is not me is going to mention this film in an essay about malaise within postcolonial vacation destinations. Back to these girls, they are underage girls pretending to be women to get drunk in Greece with adults. But one line, “you guys are gonna fall in love and leave me to it again” seemed Austenian.
Anyway, Tara or Taz (Mia McKenna Bruce) and her two besties, Skye (Lara Peake) and Em (Enva Lewis) befriend the guys staying at the suite next door. These hangouts start as innocent as Gen Z Grecian bacchanals do, with a game of ‘never have I ever’. But the night ends with Taz straying from the pack, returning the day after to her friends assuming that she lost her virginity. That, of course, is just a part of a series of events that the film treats as a mystery. What really happened to Taz that night? Who is going to find out, and how will they react when they put two and two together? The characters in How To Have Sex are oblivious, which is probably the film’s point.
One of the guys next door, Paddy (Samuel Bottomley) tells Taz a pickup line. He says, “I haven’t noticed before but you’re proper beautiful, you know?”. This, children, is not how to compliment a woman, and even Taz knows this. Oblivious is a kind word to associate with Paddy but it’s more fitting to describe Skye. She keeps pairing Paddy and Taz together at first, although she and Paddy’s best friend Badger (Shaun Thomas) do something around them. They act in a way that shows that she knows something that she doesn’t know how to address. Much credit, by the way, goes to Manning Walker for the appropriate horror aesthetic touches.
By not addressing that mysterious night in How To Have Sex, I’m probably doing the same thing I’m criticising the film for. It’s the opposite of my colleague Sarah’s review, where she straight up says that this film is about rape. Again, there’s an essay I’m too lazy to write here in how viewers perceive rape in cinema. This is, by the way, interesting to me as an assault survivor. A big critique I have against this film is that it’s painfully British in that the second half has us watching people not address the *thing*. But for the most part, it successfully argues that people process trauma differently, a trauma that McKenna Bruce evinces well.
Toronto cinephiles can watch How To Have Sex at TIFF.