Ryan (George MacKay) and Laura (Alexandra Roach) like each other.
They really, REALLY like each other.
Having only a met a week earlier in a noisy nightclub when they standing awkwardly side-by-side and, ignored by the bartender, had no real choice but to try and talk to each other.
What begins with faltering sentences and poorly-chosen jokes soon becomes a riotously fun night of drunken bonding when it becomes very obvious, very quickly that these people are really enjoying each other’s company and could, if they play their romantic cards right, enjoy each other’s company for quite some time.
But as the Rachel Hirons-written and directed British romantic comedy A Guide to Second Date Sex makes delightfully and relatably, oft-times cringingly but humourously clear, simply because things well doesn’t mean they will always end well.
That’s because affairs of the heart, as everyone but Hallmark and Disney, are simply uncomplicated and often devilishly dangerous as we try to navigate the often tricky route to love, true love and happily ever afters.
And yet because hope springs eternal when it comes to the possibility of love finally getting us in its red rose-coloured grip, we dare to dream and dream big.
Which is brilliant and uplifting and a thousand vivid, happy shades of wonderful; alas what all that giddy anticipatory wishlisting doesn’t give us is any surety that it will actually work out.
Which is why, like Ryan and Laura, we put a ridiculous amount of pressure on ourselves to follow a stellar first date with an even more stellar second date, where naturally enough, the possibility of sex comes into play.
Certainly, Ryan’s housemate Dan (Michael Socha) and Laura’s bestie Tufts (Emma Rigby are firm believers in the fact that only is second date sex possible, it is damn near mandatory, all but talking a cautious and mostly dubious Ryan and Laura into the idea that this date, this critical next step in what could be the relationship to end all relationships, must include sex.
It can’t just be dinner, which is why Ryan has planned and Laura is expecting, nor can it simply be drinks at home and a movie; it has to be, must be, can only be, sex and lots of it, porn-like in ardour and sweeping you off your feet in emotional impact.
That’s a lot of pressure for one night and yet the two nascent lovebirds succumb, well Ryan does for the most part, driven in large part by the fact that both are relatively fresh from disastrous relationships that ended not by their hand but that of their ex-partners.
They’re open to new love but frightened it might also slip through their fingers, or worse, be caught safely and turn out to be bloody horrible, a plethora of competing hopes, fears and cautious dreams that together mean they are both putting a profound amount of pressure on knocking the second date out of the park.
What neither realises until well into what becomes a massive, messy comedy of errors of almost-unrecoverable epic proportions is that if they’d just relax and go with their flow like they did in the club that magical first time, that there’s a very high chance of things working out.
Instead, what they do is try to shoehorn a square night into a round hole, all sexual allusions very much intended, a misbegotten strategy complicated by Ryan’s weird, always lurking new housemate Adam (Tom bell) whose name no one can ever quite remember, the appearance of ryan’s ex at the worst possible time and the inability of either person to either go with their gut and do what feels right, or when things do get awkwardly, hilariously upended, to be deeply and life-changingly honest with each other.
In what ends up amounting to a charmingly offbeat comedy of errors that tips conventional romantic comedies happily on their head, A Guide to Second Date Sex becomes almost a how-not-to on follow-up dates.
What stops it from becoming simply a total cringefest, though that does happen and it is deliciously, fabulously funny at almost every point, is how earnestly real and sweet both Ryan and Laura are.
Party to their inner monologues, which let’s face it makes the abortive sex scene a joy of roll-in-the-cinema-aisle-laughing bliss, we can see that all appearance aside, these two people know deep down that they have found that one person who will finally accept them for who they are, with whom, thank god, they can finally be themselves, edit button off for the duration, thank you very much.
It’s the getting to that grand old epiphany that they are meant for each other that gives A Guide to Second Date Sex so much heartfelt, laugh out loud humour, that sustains it through what would otherwise be fatally uncomfortable awkwardness and which keeps us rooting for them when everything suggests they are utterly, irredeemably done for.
You want it all to work out but Hirons writes the film with such realism mixed with unpredictable narratively–rich comic brilliance that you are kept guessing right to the end about whether what Ryan and Laura deep down want is what they will actually not.
Perfectly mixing beautifully-nuanced, almost surreal silliness with down in the trenches of life deep and meaningful confessions that point to the fact that we are often inadvertently at our worst when we desperately want the very best, this is one romantic comedy that for all its gleefully over the top flourishes and left-of-centre sensibility is more real and affecting about love, and our clumsy pursuit of it (again for the very best of reasons) which makes it worth watching just for that rewarding point of difference alone.
It is, quite simply, one of the loveliest and funniest films you will see all year that restores your faith in the glories of love true romantic love while reminding you how treacherous and awkwardly unpredictable the getting of it often is.
A Guide to Second Date Sex is a sweet, fun, really awkward, delightfully, quirkily odd film that proves true love, the kind that actually lasts the distance regardless of mistakes made and poor decisions taken, does win out, even over weird housemates, manipulative exes, a lack of port-specific glasses and badly, awfully, near-disastrously, poorly timed sex.