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How to Have Sex (Film Review)

3 min read

Courtesy of Mubi

This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn't exist.

There really hasn't been any ‘teen' movie to come out of British cinema, this rites-of-passage genre is usually saved for TV shows. We've seen plenty of ‘Brits' on holiday across all stories, but sometimes its takes one focused character's journey and the genuine emotions splayed across a big screen to really capture the essence of being a teenager, who is both strong and vulnerable.

To celebrate finishing exams, three teenage best friends, travel to party destination, Malia for what is set to be the best summer holiday ever.

From the minute we see these girls arrive, we know they are here to have fun, but there is already something lingering around Tara, our main focus throughout. Although she's loud, funny and can clearly win people over, she's self-conscious of the that fact she's a virgin. A fact that her friends won't let her forget either. Tara tries not to let this ‘problem' hang over her, but the pressure from her friends, one in particular who clearly sees Tara as her competition, the feeling that she'll make a decision she might regret looms.

's feature debut covers various subject matters such as peer pressure, toxic friendships and most predominantly, consent. Yet none of these are expressed in broad strokes, Walker manages to include these matters in subtle, sometimes in gut punching ways that are never over dramatised. Moments are carefully constructed to have the biggest impact. Even some of the most outrageous scenes including one where a character is getting oral sex on stage on front of hundreds of people.

Courtesy of

Yet, to say that How To Have Sex is just about consent would take away a huge part of the story. This is indeed about consent, and those around us who either advocate and support or stay silent and let questionable things happen. But the journey that Tara goes on, is one that we all have been through in one form or another. She wants this experience, but as it turns out not the way she thought it would, she also comes to terms with the reality of what has happened. Instead of that feeling of reality hitting us when we return from a holiday, this feeling closes in on her far too soon and isn't just about knowing that the holiday is over. Something has changed internally and externally.

How To Have Sex is a film of two halves, the first being the brightly coloured, ecstasy filled, excited thrilling experience, to the grey, lacklustre atmosphere second half. This isn't to say the film loses something, but its an outward expression of how Tara is feeling. We see more focus on the empty streets, with rubbish lining the pavement. The shine that was there at the start has been replaced with more prominent sweat on people's faces seeming grimier and more unpleasant. The magic has been broken and the harsh reality has set in.

An essential film when discussing what consent means as well as a look into friendships that will clearly only last for a short time. How To Have Sex is that eclectic mix of a journey, rites of passage and an examination into teenage behaviour. But whatever way you read into it, the film is fantastically acted and directed and will have you thinking long after the credits roll.

How to Have Sex in Cinemas in UK & Ireland 3rd November