The debut feature film from Molly Manning Walker, winner of Un Certain Regard at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, follows three teenage girls on a rite-of-passage vacation to the Greek island of Crete. The film is anchored by Mia McKenna-Bruce’s heartbreaking performance as Tara (or Taz). Taz is the youngest yet most knowing of our threesome and the one most desperate to lose her virginity on this trip of trips, something her companions (Laura Peake as Skye and Enva Lewis as Em) had accomplished in the not-so-distant past.
Walker’s camera is “with” McKenna-Bruce, an actress of great subtlety yet great expressiveness, in a series of close-ups from the film’s opening shot at airport arrivals to the film’s masterful middle segment to the final scene at airport departures. While Sky and Em do their own thing, Tara makes the acquaintance of her next-door neighbors: the sweet, shaggy, and aptly-named Badger (a lovely turn by Shaun Thomas), who, although initially a prime catch for Tara, eventually morphs into her best friend and protector, and the more hard-to-read Paddy (Samuel Bottomly) who, although very sexy and with a great bod seems a slight bit “off”!
Walker’s Tour de Force is the movie’s middle segment in which, amidst booze, drugs, and ear-splitting music, Tara loses sight of Badger and sets off on her own in a highly inebriated state toward the beach. There, she meets Paddy, and in a stunningly choreographed sequence, the pair of bodies move as a single entity in and out of the water and back in and out a second time until he penetrates her on the sand.
Is this the way she wanted it to be? It’s the way she will have to remember it forever and ever! Of course, once the deed is done, Paddy immediately ignores her until a later sequence in which he rapes her as she sleeps just seconds away from the rest of the gang, who are on the other side of her bedroom door.
This is upsetting stuff of the first order, and it is a credit to both the director and her leading actress that they carry it off with great dignity, pathos, humor, and a little hope as Tara runs towards the departing gate in the movie’s final scene.