A GUIDE TO SECOND DATE SEX

★★★

A QUINTESSENTIALLY AWKWARD BRITISH ROMANTIC COMEDY

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Joel Kalkopf
12th January 2020

Everyone has experienced that awkward first date in some shape or form. We've all had that moment when we wish we had said something else, worn a different outfit, or regretted revealing too much about yourself. But what happens when the first date goes surprisingly well, and so the dread of the follow-up second date starts to conquer your every move? What if I just got lucky? What if they didn't feel the same way? What can I do to finally break the drought? Welcome to 'A Guide to Second Date Sex'.

Laura (Alexandra Roach, 'The Iron Lady') and Ryan (George McKay, '1917', 'True History of the Kelly Gang') hit it off the first time round after their initial meet cute one night at the club. They laughed at the right moments, shared stories of dead pets, and introduced each other to new drinks. So why are they so nervous for this second date? Well, they've both been hurt by previous relationships, the details of which come to fruition later on in the film, so those closest to Laura and Ryan try to convince them to not be themselves, in the hope that maybe this time, they can get it right.

This is the feature debut for writer/director Rachel Hirons, and she should be commended for putting these two fantastic actors on screen together. McKay is Britain's next big star, and his on-screen partner Roach is just as magnetic. They play the quintessentially awkward Brit perfectly, part comedy, part tragedy - but unfortunately, they aren't given much to play with. Too often, Hirons confuses awkward silence with having nothing to say, and the all too familiar rom-com beats are felt throughout. You can tell that Hirons is trying her hardest not to fall into the deluge of mediocre rom-coms we've seen recently, but some stylish shots and that endearing British awkwardness can't quite save this one.

This film is best when purely focused on our main protagonists, as the side characters aren't given enough time to be fleshed out, so act more as a distraction rather than a plot point. The advice from close friends on how to close the deal is cute if not predictable, but ultimately, they don't bring much to the table. There's a twist you don't see coming involving some of the supporting cast, but it feels inconsequential and doesn't add much weight to the story.

You can tell that Hirons is trying her hardest not to fall into the deluge of mediocre Rom-Coms we've seen recently, but some stylish shots and that endearing British awkwardness can't quite save this one.

But this film is not all bad - far from it. There are some very funny moments, with a notable sex scene being the pick of the bunch. The use of voiceover narration during it was hilarious, adding a genuine vulnerability and discomfort that plays so wonderfully for laughs. As a reflection of its origin on the stage, almost the whole film takes place in a little share house, which plays nicely as a sometimes intimate - and sometimes claustrophobic - environment. While so much of this film feels very typical in terms of its characters and setting, it's not unwelcome thanks mainly to the brilliance of George McKay. We're going to be seeing a lot of him in the future, and that is by no means a bad thing.

'A Guide to Second Date Sex' opens with various commentaries on dating and love life hacks, but what is Hirons trying to say? Is this exploring the pressures of external voices, and how it wrongly dictates going against one's nature? To be yourself in the face of adversity? That there is hope from past relationship traumas? Or, is this film just about the awkwardness of sex? There is enough here to suggest it could be all of the above, and there is nothing essentially wrong with that, but it fails to make that point clear.

Like so many comedies, it forgets to be funny two-thirds of the way in, which can be tolerable if there is enough heart in its conclusion - but alas, there isn't. There's just enough laughter and sweetness throughout the 90-minute runtime to make it likeable, but whilst cute and enjoyable, there's too much familiarity to label this a "must-see".

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