Coming-of-age films have long been dominated by male-centric narratives, making it a noteworthy occasion when two movies centered around women, How to Have Sex and Scrambled, premiere simultaneously. Despite their differing plots, these films offer an insightful double feature, exploring the strengths and limitations of the genre.
How to Have Sex, crafted by writer and director Molly Manning Walker, ventures into conventional coming-of-age territory with a contemporary twist. The storyline follows three English girls on a vibrant holiday in Greece as they grapple with the uncertainties of their futures. Tara, portrayed by Mia McKenna-Bruce, takes center stage as the virgin of the group, and the film delves into her perspective during flirtations with boys. It navigates the delicate line between consent and coercion, portraying the complexities of teenage experiences.
While the film captures moments of youthful ecstasy, it also depicts heartbreak and loneliness, especially in scenes where Tara conveys her distress through her eyes. The open-ended nature of the movie, while aligning with the overall narrative arc, might leave viewers yearning to witness more facets of the characters’ lives beyond the party setting.
On the flip side, Scrambled, directed, written, and starring Leah McKendrick, approaches the coming-of-age theme from a more mature standpoint. The plot follows Nellie, a 34-year-old woman in Los Angeles, contemplating the decision to freeze her eggs. McKendrick deliberately avoids steering the narrative into a romantic comedy, focusing instead on the challenges of egg-freezing and Nellie’s uncertainties about the future.
Scrambled delves into the intricacies of the egg-freezing decision and the subsequent medical process, steering clear of clichéd twists. While boldly depicting sexuality, the film presents it as a dead end for Nellie, contributing to a faint strain of unintentional conservatism. The movie occasionally leans into grown-woman solipsism, with McKendrick delivering emotionally charged monologues, bordering on the tragic backstory.
Both How to Have Sex and Scrambled, despite their divergent narratives, embody a post-millennial understanding of growing up. They challenge the conventional boundaries of adolescence, emphasizing that the coming-of-age process is an ongoing journey, constantly refined and redefined along the way.