Film and Television

Molly Manning Walker Discusses Her Relevant Film on Sex, Consent, and ‘Grey Areas by Lisa

It’s not⁣ every day that ⁣a film about teenage girls on a wild‌ party vacation becomes the talk of the ⁤Cannes Film Festival. Even rarer‌ is a⁢ debut filmmaker⁢ bagging the​ festival’s esteemed Un​ Certain Regard award. However, Molly Manning Walker’s How To Have Sex ‌ – a subtly groundbreaking ‍exploration of desire, consent, and their often distressing ambiguities – ‍emerged⁢ as the standout film of the year, ‍heralding the ​emergence⁣ of a promising directorial talent.

Born in London, ​Walker has an impressive resume as a director, writer, and cinematographer. Her ​first significant project was as a director ⁣of photography for‍ A$AP ⁣Rocky’s “Sundress” music ‌video. Earlier this year, she⁣ worked on ⁣the film Scrapper,​ featuring Harris ‌Dickinson, which won⁣ an award at⁣ Sundance. Cannes 2023 wasn’t her first appearance at the⁣ festival. Her ⁣short film Good Thanks, You? with ​Micheal Ward⁣ was part of the ⁣festival’s 2020 lineup. The film ⁣is a poignant 13-minute narrative about a young‌ woman’s struggle to return ⁤to normal life ⁣after⁢ an⁢ assault. “I was‍ assaulted when I was 16, and ⁢ Good Thanks,⁤ You? was somewhat a reflection of my‌ experience,” shares Walker. “It made me⁤ question my understanding of sex and its origins. I wanted to deconstruct ​it. How has society taught us about⁣ sex, and why is it failing⁤ so many⁤ women?”

How To Have Sex is Walker’s attempt to portray assault and its victims on screen.⁢ The film narrates the story of ​three teenagers on a party vacation in Crete. One of them, Tara (played by Mia McKenna-Bruce), begins the holiday as a virgin, ‌eager to change⁤ that ⁤status by ‌the end. When she is coerced into having sex under the influence of alcohol ⁣with a ⁢guy‌ from next door, her remorse‍ is​ immediate. The film’s initial ⁣party vibe shifts, and Tara’s traumatized ‍state persists ⁤throughout the film. As part of their support for the film,‍ the BFI sent Walker and her ⁣producers across the UK to discuss consent and sex with⁢ teenagers. “People assumed that consent has evolved, and shows like⁤ I May Destroy You and Sex Education have advanced the conversation,”⁣ Walker notes. However,‌ many of the teenagers’ ⁣views were disappointingly ​regressive. “We were quite taken aback.”

What resonates in How To… is its portrayal‌ of the teenagers at the heart ⁤of its story. The filming ‌took place in Malia, Crete’s party hub, ​at a package ⁣holiday resort. ​The ⁤scenes are ⁣awash with neon outfits and glowing drinks, but the film’s strength lies in its depiction of blurred ​boundaries: the girls exhibit a mix of⁤ loyal friendship and destructive envy; the drunken sex is technically consensual,⁢ but not entirely⁤ welcomed; the guy is‌ neither wholly guilty nor innocent. “I really wanted ​to ‌address ⁢the grey area,” Walker ⁤states.

“For me, ⁢the law never provided a solution, and I don’t believe it ever will. So, it’s about becoming more human. It’s about ⁣how we educate each other and our children, and how to respect each other and have satisfying sex, as equals.”

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