Molly Manning Walker learned she was a two-time BAFTA nominee at the unholy hour of 5 AM.
The British director was in Park City, Utah at the Sundance Film Festival, premiering the movie she was being honored for, “How To Have Sex.” A story about a rite of passage summer holiday gone wrong for one teenage reveller, Manning Walker’s characters think nothing of drinking ’til dawn. But in the cold dark of the mountains, with not a fishbowl cocktail or foam party to be found, the director put the kettle on and celebrated with a cup of tea.
That’s not to say Manning Walker is a world apart from the young subjects of her film. “Some memories from those holidays are still the best memories of my life,” she recalled.
The director said the film was informed by her time in Magaluf in Majorca, Spain, one of a handful of Mediterranean island resorts co-opted by Brits to cut loose. “How To Have Sex” is set in another, Malia, Greece, and features a familiar backdrop for generations who’ve spent a cheap week clubbing and making questionable decisions with their newfound independence.
These are the kind of holidays that prompt stories that will be retold for a lifetime. Other stories may never see the light of day. Manning Walker explores with keen precision what happens when the fun stops, as it does for 16-year-old Tara (a breakout Mia McKenna-Bruce) when her first sexual experiences are coercion and assault.
The film, Manning Walker’s first feature, was a hit at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, where it won top prize in the Un Certain Regard competition. It has since been nominated for outstanding British film, outstanding debut and best casting at the BAFTAs. Moreover, it has cracked open a conversation about consent in the UK, where it has already had a successful theatrical run, and has found itself being used as an education tool, says the director.
Ahead of the film’s US release on February 2, the writer-director reflected on the film’s journey, and her surprise as its universal appeal.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.