225) Honeytrap (2014)
Set in Brixton, London, Honeytrap tells the story of fifteen year-old Layla who gets sucked into gang activity and sets up the boy who’s in love with her.
8/10 – When I heard that this film would be a low budget crime drama, based on a real life murder and set in Brixton, I conjured up a sort of ‘ill manors’ and Channel AKA hybrid in my head. A plethora of teeth kissing and “u wot blud” over and over again, created by someone who has never been near a gang in their life.
Instead what I was treated to was a very original, well thought out and respectful film, not pandering to generic stereotypes and actually creating something believable.
Rebecca Johnson wrote and directed this film over a number of years, while working with troubled youths in the local Brixton area. She felt it important to keep the film as a created instance, rather than a ‘tribute’ or a replication of a particular crime, as to not do a disservice to the families associated to violent crimes in particular the Honeytrap Murder and also to lift any limitations you may find while recreating an actual event. This provided more of an artistic licence to get the key messages across.
Jessica Sula was excellent as Layla, the 15 Year Old ‘Trini-Princess’ forced to grow up far too quickly for fear of social exclusion, while also balancing an unstable home life and a complete rejection from the education system. There are many more layers to Layla, and her innocence comes across very well on screen. But what her character, and the supporting cast enable us to understand is what life is like behind that mugshot.
When you see the story in the paper about someone who was stabbed, you don’t know anything more than what you’ve been told. You see the mugshot, and a description of who was stabbed. I’ve even walked past crime scenes on the way to the tube in the morning in Brixton, and all you hear is “it was probably gangs”. What this film does is shine a light on the people involved, what other external factors lead them to make these choices and to make audiences understand that these aren’t just other statistics. The argument emerged in the Q&A whether the film put the ownership of these unfortunate acts on the kids, or the gangs, or whatever – the outcome of the discussion was that it was everyone’s responsibility.
The parents could step in – but they don’t. The kids should know better – but they don’t. They should receive better support specifically within education – but they don’t. It’s not that they don’t have a choice, it’s just that the bad choices are easily preventable.
Back to the film, and while there were some weak performances outside of the main roles, weak scripting elements and some dodgy music choices, it didn’t detract from the point of the film. It is extremely well accomplished and one of the better London based films I have seen in recent years (I’m looking at you Kidulthood… you were terrible), and you would be hard pressed to find a film that exercises such thorough research and caution when addressing themes like sexualisation, broken families, social exclusion and gang violence in London, and yet still delivers a hard hitting film.