The title How to Have Sex sounds like the film is a really fun, raunchy girls trip, but it's not -- it's much more than that.
It's the story of three British girls who go on a "spring break" type trip to Greece following their college entrance exams. They're looking to blow off steam on what they hope will be the "best holiday ever." Thanks to Tara (Mia McKenna-Bruce), the most innocent of the three, they land a poolside hotel room and immediately begin screaming from excitement. There are non-stop drinks and they're perpetually inebriated as they go out for food on their first night in Malia.
The three seem incredibly close as they laugh and eat cheesy fries while falling down drunk on their way back to the hotel. Of the girls, Em (Enva Lewis) is the most intelligent and empathetic, while Skye (Lara Peak) is insistent that Tara lose her virginity on this trip.
The entire town of Malia seems to be taken over with British teens as street parties draw in the crowds. Tara meets a young man named Badger (Shaun Thomas) on their first morning at the hotel. Badger is just across the way, sharing a room with his best friend Paddy (Samuel Bottomley) and their lesbian friend Paige (Laura Ambler). The six decide to have pre-party drinks before heading out on the town, and Badger, who seems to be quite a nice guy, hangs out with Tara. They join in a raunchy drinking game that Tara's not particulary good at, before Badger decides to join the party hosts on stage for something akin to a sex show. Turned off, Tara walks away into the crowded streets.
The trip turns out to be not quite the best friends trip that Tara had envisioned. Although she smiles and tries to play along as if she's enjoying herself, she's not having as good a time as her two friends.
The three girls begin drinking each morning and don't stop until they collapse -- wherever that may be. It's a free-for-all as the girls dress in skimpy outfits that barely cover them, hang out with complete strangers and agree to situations that are clearly not safe.
In Tara's case, she allows herself to be manoeuvered away from the crowd -- and likely due to her drunken state -- she lets something to happen that she doesn't want. This happens more than once and it's frustrating to watch her not react forcefully against this manipulation when she fully realizes what's happening to her the second time.
Tara isn't in their room the next morning, but Em and Skye decide she must be in Badger's room with their three new friends. When Badger, concerned by Tara's absence, asks where she is, Em decides to check at the front desk. Skye is considerably less concerned, convinced that Tara must be in some guy's bed, having lost her virginity, while Badger, who's known Tara for approximately 24 hours, is worried and wants to go search for her.
As Tara, Mia McKenna-Bruce turns in a performance that tugs at the heartstrings. The smallest and most naive of the three girls, she could use someone to watch over her and we desperately hope that one of the girls, or possibly Badger, will be that someone.
The story is less about a fun girls trip than it is about consent and the pain that comes from not declaring dominion over your own body. It's also about not having friends who watch your back and who have your best interests in mind. What happens to Tara is heartbreaking, and the audience watching this will likely realize how much worse this trip could have ended -- not just for Tara, but for any of the girls. ~Alexandra Heilbron
3.5 out of 5 stars
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