SXSW Film Review: Honeytrap (UK, 2015)


Gang culture and it’s devastating effects are never far away from the front pages of London’s newspapers. 2008 was one of the worst years for gang-related violence. The murder of Shakilus Townsend was arguably the most shocking.

Honeytrap, which is based around this murder, follows Layla (Jessica Sula), the girl who would ultimately lead this young man to his death. Layla has just arrived from Trinidad having been left there by her mother ten years previous. Straight off the bat we see the lack of affection from her Mother. Layla arrives at her Mother’s flat to be greeted by not so much as a smile. This is a hard area and a hard life as we come to experience through the eyes of Layla.

The film spotlight is rarely directed at London’s gang culture. When it has, there have been decidedly mixed results. For every Bullet Boy there is a Kidulthood. The audience for these films aren’t huge, hence the reason for Honeytrap’s maker ‘s decision to set up a kickstarter fund to help finance the Director/writer Rebecca Johnson and cinematographer Annemarie Lean-Vercoe to infuse Honeytrap with a realism which while not quite Cinéma vérité, never the less gives the film a rawness and immediacy.

We see Layla, who is painfully shy and naïve, having to transform herself in order to survive. From dreaming of love and romance to being given a harsh reality check by mc come drug dealer Troy (Lucien Laviscount), we see how the women in this hyper masculine world need to adapt to survive. They are seen as trophies and play a part in the respect and credibility needed to survive gang life. The only glimmer of hope for Layla comes in the form of the doomed Shaun (Ntonga Mwanza), a comparatively sensitive young man who has rejected gang life. She falls for the glamour of Troy and before long can’t escape his violent, misogynistic clutches.

Rebecca Johnson had worked with young people in Brixton for 10 years previous to shooting this film and it shows. The language is realistic and not full of clichés like so many other films set in this world. The characters also have a ring of truth to them. As a former Police Community Support Officer myself having worked in and around this area in Brixton for 4 years I can vouch for this. Several of the cast are first time actors from Brixton and, along with Johnson’s direction, bring much needed reality to accurately and respectfully represent this somewhat tragic way of life.

Honeytrap is a tightly paced, authentic feeling telling of an all too familiar tale in London and a tale that showcases the talents of a promising new film-maker.

Running Time: 93 minutes

Honeytrap premiered in the USA as part of the SXSW Film Festival, for more information go to the official SXSW Film Festival website.


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