Directed by Rebecca Johnson.
Starring Jessica Sula, Lucien Laviscount, Ntonga Mwanza, and Naomi Ryan.
Layla, a naive teenager from Trindad, moves to Brixton, London to live with her emotionally distant mother. Layla gets sucked into local gang activity trying to impress those around her.
Honeytrap is an engaging film based on a deeply disturbing event that occurred in London in 2008. Overall the film shows a lot of promise for writer/director Rebecca Johnson and Honeytrap’s star Jessica Sula.
As Honeytrap begins, the audience is introduced to Layla, a 15 year old girl from Trinidad that has recently moved to Brixton, London. Sula does an admirable job in her role as Layla showing a wide eyed innocence and an enormous desire for love and acceptance. Layla’s life in Trinidad is never shown, but passing mentions of it make clear that Layla’s grandparents did not provide a safe and loving home for her. Unfortunately things don’t look much brighter in her new living situation with her mother Shiree, played by Naomi Ryan.
Shiree is obviously taking in Layla because she doesn’t have any other options, and makes it very clear to Layla that she will need to fend for herself. Shiree has also been damaged by her upbringing. She appears much more concerned about the attention she is able to get from the men in the her life than following through with parental tasks such enrolling her own daughter in school. In Shiree’s world anything that goes wrong is someone else’s fault. This selfishness and ability to live in a state of denial will also rub off on her daughter Layla.
Layla is looking for acceptance at her new school from both the girls and the boys. While she hesitates momentarily when it becomes clear that her new girlfriends require her to start shoplifting for them, Layla soon starts stealing things for herself as well. One of the real tragedies of Honeytrap is seeing that Layla is driven not only by her need for love, but also a need for status and fame. Even though she is repeatedly exposed to gang violence from both the girls and boys in her new circle of friends, Layla inserts herself back into their lives rather than embrace her one true friend in the film Shawn, played by Ntonga Mwanz.
While the character of Layla is clearly damaged and is literally surrounded by bad influences, one of the strengths of the film is that is doesn’t show her as the film’s victim. Layla may be naive, but she knows she’s making horrible choices. While viewers will most likely start off the film rooting for Layla to find the love and support every teenage girl deserves, it becomes harder, if not impossible, to excuse some of her behavior as the film goes on. Jessica Sula has a lot of raw talent as an actress, but in her biggest emotional scenes she looks like she’s trying to act a certain way and she comes off as a bit rehearsed and stiff.
Overall Honeytrap is a successful, yet tragic, coming of age film about a girl who has few positive options and influences in her life. Rebecca Johnson was not always successful fully fleshing out some of the supporting characters in the film, but she did an excellent job showcasing Sula in a rich and complex main character. Naomi Ryan was also a standout in the film as Layla’s emotionally distant mother.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Amy Richau is a freelance entertainment and sports writer. Follow her on Twitter.