Cannes Hidden Gem: Wild Teen Summer Vacation Takes Dark Turn in 'How to Have Sex'

Cannes Hidden Gem: Wild Teen Summer Vacation Takes Dark Turn in ‘How to Have Sex’

There was an acting skill so crucial to performances in How to have sex that writer-director Molly Manning Walker he says she became a “huge part” of the film’s casting process. “He was like, ‘Pretend you’re drunk!’ – And instantly it showed,” he explains. Someone told Walker, who makes his directorial debut after several years as cinematographer (the recent Sundance bow scraper) and making short films, that a key approach was to “pretend I’m not drunk and hide it from everyone”.

In the first two scenes, it’s clear why this was such an important element. The film, which premiered in the Un Certain Regard competition in Cannes, follows three British teenage girls on the summer holidays of a lifetime in Malia, the Greek resort and party town known for its debauched nightlife (especially with young British ). Their vacation plans are relatively simple: party, get drunk, and hook up.

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Starring Mia McKenna-Bruce (recently seen in Netflix’s Persuasion), Lara Peake (How to Talk to Girls at Parties) and newcomer Enva Lewis (selected from 250 hopefuls), the trio fulfill the “getting wasted” part with expert precision and is seen comically falling out of clubs and bars, vomiting in the street, and staggering back to their hotel room, only to start all over again the next day.

Alongside the cast’s clear ability to appear heavily intoxicated on camera, was another method employed, one perhaps not taught in drama school. “We also did this thing — which we have in all the outtakes — where before every scene where they’re drunk, we’d spin them on their feet,” says Walker. As McKenna-Bruce jokes: “Yeah, I think it’s a bit Stanislavsky.”

The wild party scenes – actually filmed in Malia (but out of season, so the clubs were mostly filled with local Greek extras, all cast to look like young Englishmen) – will likely divide the audience into those who want to be there with them who have spirit poured down their throats and those who would rather be literally anywhere else. Large parts were inspired by Walker’s own experiences, with her admitting she took many similar vacations as a teenager. “I was a very different person,” she says. “False hair, false eyelashes, covered in fake tan.”

Some of the scenes from How to have sex it came from recalling those memories and establishing whether they actually occurred (including one of the more eye-opening scenes where two Brits compete to get blow job on stage in front of hundreds of cheering, drunken revelers). “I met a bunch of friends and I said, ‘That happened, didn’t it?’ because he was a little crazy.

Despite all the chaos, there’s a looming feeling that something unfortunate is ahead. When it finally comes, the story takes a darker turn, one that concerns sexual consent and what exactly that means. Is saying “yes” enough? What if someone is clearly not enjoying themselves? “We wanted to talk lightly about the gray area of ​​the assault,” says Walker. “And for me, it’s about education about sex, especially with young guys, and how nobody’s talking about female pleasure — everybody’s talking about male pleasure.”