Rebecca Johnson’s 2015 SXSW and Urbanworld Film Festival Official Selection “Honeytrap,” is a well told story of Layla, a beautiful 15 year old girl who, after living most of her life with her grandparents in Trinidad, arrives in Brixton, London, to live with her estranged mother. Based on the case of a real-life murder which made UK news headlines in 2008, in which a young girl is used to lure her naïve ex-boyfriend into the trap of her older ex-boyfriend and his posse, “Honeytrap” eschews the headlines and plays out the classic fish out of water trope to a devastatingly tragic conclusion. With Layla initially sticking out like a sore thumb and keen to fit in with her peers, she is led down paths that seem unlikely she’d have gone down if the spectre of teenage peer pressure and a desperate need for acceptance, weren’t so strongly at play.
The need for acceptance though, stems mainly from a seeming lack of affection from Layla’s grandparents and mother. In fact, the relationship between mother and daughter is central to this story. Though Layla is taken in by her mother, the arrangement seems to be one of great reluctance and inconvenience on the mother’s part. Emotionally cold, self-centred and clearly dependent on male attention herself, Layla’s mother seems to have little beyond the roof over her head to give to her daughter. While we never see her deny Layla as her daughter, she behaves more like an older sibling irritated by the very existence of her naive, doting, younger sister, than a mother with any sense of maternal responsibility or moral guidance to impart. So with the any notions of a happy family life in London being dashed from the outset, Layla is pretty much at the mercy of the worst that inner city youth culture has to offer any unassuming newcomer.
Jessica Sula plays Layla with amazing fluidity. Her naivety is believable, and yet one is equally left wondering whether her character is really as sweet and innocence as she initially seems. She clearly has ambitions to be greater than what she’s been lead to believe she can be, but, like her mother, one gets the impression that male attention plays a huge part in any such scheme. She certainly doesn’t have problems with switching allegiances, but is she just being a normal, whimsical teenager or a scheming femme fatale? Whatever the case, it’s clear that she doesn’t quite have the wherewithal to be more than a pawn or a plaything, with little personal fortitude to change the rules of the game or stop playing altogether.
“Honeytrap” is an engaging, well-paced film which manages to go beyond the sensation of a young female accomplice to murder, and cuts to the very personal story of a young woman who lets her desperate yearning for affection and acceptance spiral way out of her control.
A month ago, ARRAY announced its acquisition of “Honeytrap,” the collective’s 14th theatrical release. The distribution collective will begin a national screening tour for the film on September 23rd, including planned runs in New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Chicago, Seattle, Houston, Memphis, Montgomery and Boston. A Netflix debut will follow in the US and Canada on October 3rd. See the below schedule for exact playdates.
National Tour Engagements:
09/23-09/25 New York Imagenation Cinema Foundation
09/23 New York Urbanworld Film Festival: Special Presentation
09/24 Washington, DC Anacostia Arts Center
09/28-10/01 Memphis Belcourt Theater
09/29 Seattle, WA Ark Lodge Cinema
10/01 Boston, MA Reel Life Experience at Paramount Theater
10/01 Montgomery, AL Pure Artistry Literary Cafe
10/02 Chicago, IL Black Cinema House at Stony Island Arts Bank
10/06 Houston, TX Houston Museum of African American Culture
10/14 Philadelphia, PA African American Museum presented by Reelblack
A first clip from the film has been released today and is embedded below, followed by the previously-released trailer: