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“How to Have Sex” is a very personal debut film, chronicling the vacation of a group of British teenagers on a vacation to a seaside resort in Crete. 

It’s a seaside town in Greece, but everyone speaks English. The tourists are almost all teenagers or very young adults, here to drink, party and drink some more. The cocktails are fluorescent and the vodka mixes with everything sweet. The Americans call it “spring break”. Tara and her girlfriends have come to have fun while they wait for their exam results, to get wild and do anything they can while they still can, and maybe have their first sexual experiences. Sex is the subject of every joke and every drinking game.

When we go out, we dress sexy, and make sure that vomit stains don’t spoil the ensemble. But above all, we have fun like kids. After all, we’re only sixteen. And then there’s the sex we fantasise about as a fun fantasy, despite the pressure of the first time, and the sex that happens, pathetic and awkward. You force yourself to do it – wasn’t that what you came for? – But we’d like to be somewhere else. And then there’s the rape, out of the blue, one morning when you wake up. 

In recounting the partying vacations of British girls scarcely younger than herself, Molly Manning Walker signs a beautiful and accurate portrait of adolescence and female friendship and is awarded the Prix Un Certain Regard at the last Cannes Film Festival. It’s a far cry from the fantasised adolescence of American teen movies, but it’s also a far cry from the sordidness of Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers”. Yes, the party is always disappointing, but we leave with a hangover and a smile; it wasn’t so bad after all, it’ll make memories. As for the thorny issue of rape, Molly Manning Walker deals with it intelligently: without ever denying its violence, she doesn’t make her heroine a sad victim, condemned to eternal trauma. Her heroine has the resilience of youth. Life is more complex, and it goes on. 

Pierre Charpilloz

“How to Have Sex” by Molly Manning Walker, in cinemas from November 15