‘Honeytrap’ is a drama film that follows Layla, a 15-year-old girl who arrives in London to live with her mother from Trinidad. Though lonely, she soon becomes infatuated with the older Troy, an aspiring rapper; at the same time, Layla starts receiving attention from Shaun, who is closer to her in age. Layla starts using Shaun’s affection towards her to make Troy jealous and attract him, which leads to dire consequences.
Directed by Rebecca Johnson, the 2014 film features the talents of Jessica Sula, Lucien Laviscount, Ntonga Mwanza, Naomi Ryan, Danielle Vitalis, and Tosin Cole, amongst others. A tragic tale of young love, ‘Honeytrap’ brings to viewers an example of what blind faith and bad influences could result in. But is there any truth behind the story? Read on and find out!
Is Honeytrap a True Story?
Yes, ‘Honeytrap’ is a true story. Director Rebecca Johnson, who penned the screenplay, took inspiration from the tragic death of Shakilus Townsend, a 16-year-old boy, in London in 2008. In July 2008, Shakilus Townsend was led by his girlfriend, Samantha Joseph, to a cul-de-sac in Thornton Heath, in South London, on the pretext that they were going to meet a cousin of hers. Unknown to Shakilus, however, was the fact that Samantha was in touch with her ex-boyfriend Danny McLean and had conspired to have him killed in order to get back together with him.
Shakilus had been smitten with Samantha when she was in a relationship with McLean and had constantly showered her with gifts. Though happy with the gifts, Samantha only had eyes for McLean, but the latter broke things off with her when he found out about Shakilus. When Samantha reached out to McLean again, asking to get back together, McLean agreed on the condition that she would lure Shakilus out to be killed by him and his gang.
There was no reasoning behind this decision – it was simply a senseless murder perpetrated by somebody simply because he could and with the help of a girl who couldn’t care less about anybody but herself. Danny McLean and Samantha Joseph, along with the rest of their posse that left a dying Shakilus to bleed out from his stab wound that day were caught and then convicted in 2009. Each of them received a minimum of ten years in prison.
While the story of ‘Honeytrap’ might closely resemble that of Shakilus Townsend’s murder, it’s not a biographical account in any way or form. This is due to the fact that none of the characters share their name with any of the real-life people involved, but also because the story itself isn’t focused on a love triangle, to begin with. Director Rebecca Johnson revealed in an interview with The Moveable Fest that her main objective in narrating this tale was to bring to light the rampant gangs that rope in children and young adults into their activities in Brixton, her hometown.
“Gang culture’s just a reality [in Brixton]. There is poverty and people who have all grown in the same area getting involved in this, that, and the other and it’s going to touch your life [even if you’re not directly involved]. It’s not like being in being in Favelas in Brazil or some huge criminal syndicate, but it’s people doing what they’re doing to survive, but also ending up falling into pitfalls,” Johnson said.
Furthermore, ‘Honeytrap’ is also about a confused young girl who has suddenly been thrust into an alien environment and does not know what kind of people she should associate with because of the dazzling façade they exude – but ultimately ends up in the wrong company. This indecisiveness and as well as Layla’s own tumultuous home life, is shown beautifully through scenes of her simply standing in a doorway; the same is done with the other characters as well.
The aforementioned point isn’t simply for an aesthetic appeal, however – it is to sympathize with each and every one of them and convey to the audience that it is not their fault that they fell under bad influences; there were never any good influences, to begin with. Either the parents were always busy trying to better the living conditions of the entire family, or they simply couldn’t care less.
Inspired by a true story but not dependent on it, ‘Honeytrap’ paints a picture of the stark reality that plagues the streets of London, especially those of lower economic standing. Through a mixture of abuse, machismo and paranoia, true crime, and urban-realist melodrama, director Rebecca Johnson conveys a powerful story that will surely resonate with the viewers.
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