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SXSW: Rebecca Johnson’s Honeytrap

Monday 16 March 2015
Words Ailis Mara

Rebecca Johnson’s powerful and assured debut feature capitalises on her promising work in short films (be sure to watch her 2009 short TOP GIRL) and delivers a sincere, heartfelt and justifiably complex look at youth culture in South London. Partly based on a tragic true story about teenage boy stabbed to death in what was referred to as a ‘Honeytrap’, where he was lured into an altercation by the girl he was dating. Johnson’s film focuses on the girl and what lead her to her actions.

Johnson handles this grim plot with a refreshing sincerity and non-judgemental approach, focusing on a teenage girl who is struggling to adapt in a tough, often brutal environment on the fringes of inner city deprivation. Layla (Jessica Sula, SKINS), is a girl dealing with arriving in a new country, not fitting in, not having any money, trying to connect with an often distant mother, seeking the acceptance of the local girls and the affection of local heartthrob MC (Troy, played by Lucien Laviscount). The plot also alludes to a darker past for Layla (and her mother) involving relatives back in Trinidad. Jessica Sula is truly outstanding in this role. She delivers a performance which transcends Johnson’s complex approach to the character, and shows a fully realised portrayal of adolescence, which as everyone who’s gone through it knows, is a wide ranging scope of emotions, experiences, confusions, excitement, joy and despair. Sula handles Layla’s multitude of emotions and experiences in a way that encompasses this broad spectrum but retains a consistency, it is always Layla and she, like us all, are capable of being very different people.

The breadth of Layla’s character (and her portrayal) are seen in Johnson’s understanding and delivery of this story. London youth culture is easily stereotyped, mocked and too lazily represented in most media, be it films, music, fashion, advertising. What makes HONEYTRAP more than another teen/youth/gang genre pic is it characters depth, and it’s telling of an ethically complex story with honesty and integrity.