MIFF PICK – ‘How to Have Sex’: a confronting look at raunch culture as three teenage girls hit a hot holiday spot

Not-so-happy holiday: Mia McKenna-Bruce as Tara in ‘How to Have Sex’.

HOW TO HAVE SEX ***1/2 (98 minutes) Unclassified 18+
Blessed with a caustically ironic title this finely directed, zeitgeist-tapping sex drama dives into the downside of raunch culture as three post-high school British girls join the hormonally pre-occupied throngs at a hot holiday spot.

Looking for fun and hopefully a few casual hook-ups with similarly minded guys with laddish swagger and zero body fat, the girls find prospects in the adjacent apartment with Tara (Mia McKenna-Bruce) becoming entwined with bad boy Paddy (Samuel Bottomley) whose seduction strategy takes them to the beach.

Rather than deploy off-the-shelf clichés about toxic masculinity, writer/director Molly Manning Walker (in a very strong debut) instead opts for a more nuanced engagement with the issues of consent and the presumption of sexual entitlement. Nobody gets off lightly as the truth behind events unfold.

Full of challenging questions and confronting conversation triggers, the film offers unforced observations about excessive drinking, female bonding, blithe degradation – that pool party scene is hard to stomach – and recreational sex through an impressive raft of naturalistic performances, especially from McKenna-Bruce and Shaun Thomas, who plays Paddy’s mate Badger.