Content warning: abuse and sexual assault
A post-GCSEs girls holiday to Malia fuelled by Tom Zanetti-type music is unfortunately a rite of passage in the UK. Thankfully, due to COVID I didn’t have to endure the horrors that would’ve inevitably followed. Molly Manning Walker’s directorial debut is even more reason why I am counting my lucky stars that I didn’t even attempt to go on a feral-girl holiday.
Currently streaming on Mubi, ‘How to Have Sex’ is, in my opinion, a psychological horror which follows three best friends on their first solo girls’ holiday to Malia. Known for its particular emphasis on nightlife, Malia is up there with Zante, Aiya Napa, Magaluf, Ibiza, and Kavos for a lethal party holiday. Lots of the time holidays like this are revered. A time where you and your girls can get insanely drunk with no parents around! The other side which is specifically ignored by travel agents and holiday reps are the men who go to find insanely drunk girls who are lost, alone and unable to stand. For a place with such a reputation for partying, it’s inevitable that people will use this as an opportunity to prey on and abuse young drunk girls.
The styling of the film was a huge highlight for me. Each character seems to have only packed neon mesh dresses and bikinis which aided in making the three teens look younger. The style was extremely Pretty Little Thing which, again, perfectly towed the line between the characters acting and looking younger yet attempting to look old.
Mia Mckenna Bruce’s performance was astounding. Her character, Tara, is on a quest to lose her virginity. To her, it’s the most important thing on her mind- mainly due to the pressures of her friends. When she has sex, she is celebrated even though it wasn’t something which she wanted or enjoyed. The conflict between knowing it wasn’t right and being celebrated by her friends is apparent. Because the man was attractive, they don’t see him as a threat. If anything, she is seen as lucky. Her friend Skye asked if ‘it was good’ as if she had suddenly forgotten that Tara was a virgin who was also blackout drunk when it occurred.
I found the film to be a chilling, cautionary tale with an all too realistic plot. The experiences of the characters are unfortunately almost universal. The casting of a former CBBC child actress also aided in the storytelling. The target audience of this film would be the same of the Tracey Beaker spin off she starred in which aired from 2010-2012. This was an effective way to draw the intended crowd as well as further emphasise the innocence of Tara. Her performance has also reinforced her status as a homegrown talent.
All in all, this film is a must watch.
Words: Kate Moxon, she/her