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Film Review: HOW TO HAVE SEX (2023): Molly Manning Walker Delivers a Heavy and Heartbreaking Look at a Vacation Gone Awry

Mia Mckenna Bruce How To Have Sex

How to Have Sex Review

How to Have Sex (2023) Film Review, a movie written and directed by Molly Manning Walker and starring Mia McKenna-Bruce, Lara Peake, Enva Lewis, Samuel Bottomley, Shaun Thomas, Elliot Warren, Eilidh Loan, Anna Antoniades, Finlay Vane Last, Daisy Jelley and Olivia Brady.

Molly Manning Walker has created a disturbing portrait of a young teenager’s descent into the harsh realities of the world with the probing new drama, How to Have Sex. This movie features a performance by a bright up-and-comer, Mia McKenna-Bruce, who plays a young woman named Tara who holds everything in, emotionally speaking, when another person would just get up and scream and run away from it all. Faced with tremendous peer pressure from her friends, Skye (Lara Peake) and Em (Enva Lewis), Tara is a bit innocent and yearns for acceptance. Tara is joined by these two girls on a trip from England to a Greek island that feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere, especially when things get really intense and uncomfortable for Tara.

How to Have Sex is not a title that fits the movie after watching the whole thing but when you examine the name of the picture, it ultimately makes sense in an ironic sort of way. The film opens with the three girls yearning for a pool side hotel room. They have to get such a room in order to get the full experience of their vacation.

Tara, as a character, is not a prude but she’s also not ready for the devastating consequences of her trip to the island. Tara takes a lot from the annoying Skye who claims she loves Tara and in one scene late in the movie, Skye tells her how important and everlasting their friendship is. Did I mention Tara is getting assaulted in the next room? This is the type of movie which shows the way young people perceive the world and how an innocent girl (Tara) loses herself in the process of trying to fit in. Nobody twists Tara’s arm to go on the vacation but she feels awkwardly misplaced in some key moments of the picture. This is especially true in a scene where she’s romanced by a creep named Paddy (played with an abundance of sliminess and quite well by Samuel Bottomley). Tara seems to like a guy called Badger (Shaun Thomas) but he’s also a man of less than noble character which leads Tara into Paddy’s discomforting arms.

There is a scene where Paddy pretty much makes Tara go for a swim in cold water where she feels so out of place that she may have wished she never came on this vacation. During this moment. Paddy is a jerk who is just out for one thing although that’s my interpretation of him. Paddy is an unsympathetic character who is annoying and Tara should have had the right mind to ask for help in terms of dealing with him.

Soon, Tara finds herself alone just wanting to crash and go to sleep. She clubs with strangers and ends up laying down on a raft by a poolside. She walks some desolate streets alone looking to reunite with her “friends.” These girls are “close” to her but fail to truly understand her. Sex is something teenagers typically desire but how it comes into play in Tara’s life is not how it should if morals existed in the world.

Mia McKenna-Bruce, as Tara, is amazingly complex in a powerful performance. She has ambitions that lead to disappointment and lets Paddy walk all over her. Tara seems too timid to let her friends know that they’re turning a blind eye to what’s happening to her right in front of them. The movie tries to present the friends as girls who mean well and want to party. Enva Lewis’s Em is somewhat caring, I suppose, even if it feels as if it’s too little, too late. Even Skye means well, I suppose, but Skye is seemingly living in a bubble and needs to wake the heck up.

How to Have Sex can be annoying at times to watch. You want to pull Paddy away from Tara in certain instances or yell back at the screen to tell her to kick or punch him or something. Tara is too easy going and suffers all around as a result. The film’s direction by Molly Manning Walker is top notch and intensely conveys the idea of friendship being something that requires more than just wanting a pal to get laid. Tara’s friends are sincere but they’re also oblivious. The wake-up call comes at the movie’s end and Em gets it but Skye keeps on rambling on.

Walker’s film is not going to be easy for some viewers to watch. McKenna-Bruce’s quality performance is pivotal to understanding the points the movie drives home. But, at the end of the day, the audience may walk away from this movie wondering if it’s a coming-of-age story or the tale of a living nightmare. Either assumption would probably be correct.

Rating: 8/10

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