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The raw emotion and astute observations in rite of passage film How to Have Sex owe a lot to the excellent lead performance of Mia McKenna-Bruce but as a morality tale the film offers few surprises.

The premise of How to Have Sex isn’t very novel. The film takes place during a summer break in which the three female protagonist head off to a Spanish island to get drunk, party all night and (they hope) have lots of sex.

Yet if you’re expecting a British version of American Pie, think again. How to Have Sex is a much more profound experience, not only because writer-director Molly Manning Walker captures the essence of youthful exuberance in vibrant imagery but because she always hints at the hidden sadness beneath the 24-hour party people façade.

The picture, which tonally hews close to the works of Harmony Korine (though it is most definitely its own beautiful beast) takes you to some pretty dark places and paints an at times disturbing portrait of the jaded vapidness of today’s youth.

All of this is combined in a superb lead performance by Mia McKenna-Bruce, who carries the picture effortlessly on her shoulders and finds exactly the right balance between empathy and pity, even if the film itself struggles to say something revelatory about a heavy subject.

So all in all, How to Have Sex is a mixed bag that nevertheless is elevated above similar fare through the believable, cathartic hope and camaraderie that shines through in the end.

release: 2023

director: Molly Manning Walker

starring: Mia McKenna-Bruce, Daisy Jelley, Lara Peake, Samuel Bottomley


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