A Guide to Second Date Sex
- James Mottram
- 20 April 2020
George MacKay and Alexandra Roach endure dating disaster in this faltering British rom-com
After scripting 2013's Powder Room, Rachel Hirons makes her directorial debut with A Guide to Second Date Sex, a rom-com inspired by her play about dating disasters. Promisingly, it brings together two excellent performers: George MacKay (riding high off 1917's awards season success) and Alexandra Roach (best known for her small screen work, including Utopia, Hunderby and No Offence). They play Ryan and Laura, a pair of singletons beaten down by disappointing relationships who meet at a club, spend all night chatting, then set up a second date for the following week.
This we learn in flashback, as our two potential lovebirds prepare for this all-important encounter at Ryan's pad. Laura arrives, thinking they're going out for a curry, but Ryan has been ill-advised by leery flatmate Dan (a reliably hilarious Michael Socha of This Is England fame), who says he needs to keep her at the house and get her into bed before she can change her mind.
With the story ping-ponging wildly between the second date and the first, the film is crying out for a stronger directorial hand in its first half. Jokes fall flat and the self-consciousness felt by both parties starts to infect everything. So awkward does it get that, at points, it's like watching scenes from Mike Leigh's Bleak Moments; not a good look for a rom-com.
Despite their talent, MacKay and Roach struggle with what is, for much of its duration, a two-hander. Fortunately, things get a boost when the lively Dan returns with his latest conquest, Tali (Kae Alexander). And amusing subplots involving Ryan and Dan's other weirdo housemate and the inconvenient arrival of Ryan's ex also perk the story up. More such shenanigans would've improved things further; the lasting impression is of a first feature beset by inexperience. But Hirons shows evidence of being a good, observational writer, who deserves to direct again. Hopefully, her second film will go better than that second date.
Available to watch on BFI Player from Mon 20 Apr.