Sula's performance as Layla is layered with fragility and the will to thrive in a new environment. She is never not emoting to her fullest on screen, her face radiating so many desires in one shot. Also, the setting and the racial politics do nearly fall into trope mode at points, but Johnson manages to stave this off by keeping her narrative strictly out of melodrama and firmly in social realism. Layla's evolution of self comes at the expense of shoplifting (a favourite pastime of the local girl group) and relegation of sexual power (at the persuasion of Troy) but she learns very quickly the consequences of trusting easily.
The environment changes Sula, her adaptation becomes her shield. As the title suggests, this film is a beautifully loaded gun, a tension always simmering beneath the surface, ready to be unleashed. On that surface it's a glorious film to look at. Some of the loveliest moments show Layla gazing into a mirror, reflecting on the woman she could become, as well as trying on her mother's clothes, as if willing herself out of her childhood cocoon. Honeytrap is a finely crafted picture that may be one of the most recently vital films extolling the virtues and dangers of modern British black girlhood.
Allie Gemmill | @alliegem