The film opens on a picturesque beach, capturing the trio’s carefree interactions as they playfully tease each other and frolic in the sea. The cinematography by Nicolas Canniccioni immerses us in their world, emphasizing their natural chemistry and the radiant light of daybreak.
It’s impossible not to root for these friends, hoping that their camaraderie remains unchanged, shielding them from the inevitable challenges ahead.
However, as the story progresses, we witness the complexities of their friendship and the potential fractures that threaten to emerge. When they befriend an older group of individuals staying in the adjacent room, Tara and Badger (Shaun Thomas) share a flirtatious encounter reminiscent of a modern-day Romeo and Juliet.
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As the week unfolds, Tara, Skye, and Em integrate into a new dynamic with Badger, Paddy (Sam Bottomley), and Paige (Laura Ambler), indulging in pregame rituals before exploring the bustling bars and pools of the town.
Tara, who is eager to lose her virginity during the trip, begins to form a connection with one of the boys. However, what initially seemed like a lighthearted adventure takes a dark turn when Tara experiences a sexual assault.
Mia McKenna Bruce delivers a powerful performance, conveying the character’s emotional turmoil and withdrawal as she grapples with the aftermath of the traumatic event. The film skillfully captures the difficulty of processing assault, navigating consent, and initiating conversations surrounding these sensitive topics.
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Manning Walker adeptly creates a sense of foreboding and alters the film’s tone without sacrificing its momentum. Tara’s silence becomes increasingly poignant as the days pass, as she feels isolated and burdened by her experience. James Jacob’s score complements the disorienting atmosphere of the resort initially, but gradually adopts a more subdued tone, amplifying the weight of Tara’s silence.
Her friends, Skye and Em, struggle to understand the changes in Tara’s behavior, and we start to unravel the complexities of their friendship through subtle clues and moments of reflection.
While Lara Peake and Enva Lewis deliver excellent performances as Skye and Em, respectively, the motivations behind their actions, particularly Skye’s treatment of Tara, could have been further explored. Greater transparency would have enhanced the film’s cohesion and strengthened the connection between the beginning and the end. Nonetheless, the haunting portrayal of Tara’s journey to reclaim her body and the shifting dynamics within the friendship make “How to Have Sex” an introspective and thought-provoking film.
In conclusion, Molly Manning Walker’s “How to Have Sex” is a quiet stunner that navigates the intricacies of friendship, sexual assault, and self-discovery. With its breathtaking cinematography, nuanced performances, and exploration of the challenges faced by young women, the film captivates audiences and leaves a lasting impact. As we witness Tara’s transformation and the evolving dynamics between the three friends, we are reminded of the initial joy and innocence they shared, their laughter echoing against the crashing waves—a fleeting reminder of the protective bond they once had.