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SXSW 2015: ‘Honeytrap’ fails to generate emotion despite its melodramatic subject matter

SXSW 2015: ‘Honeytrap’ fails to generate emotion despite its melodramatic subject matter


Written and directed by Rebecca Johnson
UK, 2014

As Honeytrap opens, 15-year-old Layla (Jessica Sula) arrives in London, having traveled from her native Trinidad to live with her mother. With her doe eyes and cherubic face, she looks displaced on the gritty streets of South London. Over the course of Honeytrap, Layla’s innocence is slowly dismantled by this harsh environment, and director Rebecca Johnson depicts this process with broad strokes and heavy-handed characterization.

Layla’s purity comes under attack in almost no time at all. She starts hanging out with a couple of delinquents from her school, shoplifting for them as a form of ingratiation. It is through these friends that Layla is introduced to Troy (Lucien Laviscount), a local musician whom Layla immediately falls for. Troy is the film’s namesake. His good looks and charm lure Layla into his arms, and it is only when she resides firmly in his clutches that Troy drops the winsome façade and reveals his malevolent interior.

So evil and merciless is Troy that he could pass for the main antagonist in a superhero movie. He slaps Layla across the face when she disobeys him, and flies into a rage if he ever sees her talking with another man. Yet the character rarely exhibits any genuine human behaviour. He is a nonperson, a caricature, a well-worn cliché. Sadly, he is not the only individual in Honeytrap to fit this characterization.


After a certain point, each character solely functions as an abuser to Layla. Her friends turn hostile, refusing to speak to her. Whenever Layla’s mother appears on-screen, she does little more than hurl vituperations and demands at her daughter. Johnson intends Honeytrap to chart the destruction of one girl’s innocence, but rarely does the director imbue any nuance into the narrative.

In truth, it’s somewhat unfair to deride Honeytrap as being over-the-top when it is clear that it’s intended to be a melodrama of the soapiest variety. Nevertheless, melodramas are calibrated to pander to human emotion, and Honeytrap is so overridden with clichés and one-dimensional characters that it fails to generate pathos. It is the skeleton of a melodrama. It possesses the genre’s mechanics, but not its emotional punch.

— Jacob Carter