With Jessica Sula to soon have her own program with Recovery Road, naturally, I wanted to see if the Skins alumni could hold her own in a film. As for whether or not she did, look below.
Characters & Story
It’s been around 10 years since Shiree (Naomi Ryan) left her daughter Layla (Jessica Sula), now 15, with her parents in Trinidad. However, due to reasons not deeply gone into, Layla is now going to live with her mother in Brixton. Something which, at first, surely seemed like a good idea to someone, but with Shiree struggling financially, and Layla being so innocent, so sheltered, and so naïve, it ends up being a transition from bad to worse. If only because Layla ends up with a bad crowd, and then there are her relationships between Shaun (Ntonga Mwanza) and Troy (Lucien Lavisount). These relationships are the catalyst to her growth as well as her downfall and are what set the drama of the film in motion.
The main reason to watch for me was Sula, since I enjoyed her as Grace Blood in Skins, and am hoping that Recovery Road can be a true breakout role for her. For while her accent seemed interesting, which is the word I’m using since I have no idea what a Trinidadian accent sounds like, I must admit that no matter what, she seemed so innocent. Which, in the beginning, isn’t a big deal, but when it comes to how she treats Shaun at times, it helps show that despite all her attempts to adapt to Brixton, essential she is still the same Layla we met in the beginning. Leading me to hope that as Maddie, in Recovery Road, she can maintain the qualities of Maddie which make her the type of character you want to see smacked in the face, alongside the girl who has never had a real relationship and you feel for her since you know that she simply grew up way too quickly.
Focusing on the movie, though, I will say it was slightly interesting. Though only because the romance between Layla and the two boys seemed like it could have become interesting. If only because it seemed like as she transitioned from one to the other, it would have been something a tad bit more complex due to her trying to get over her first love, yet still being in love with him, and yet, all the while, knowing he is a piece of crap.
Despite being based on a true story, honestly, the film plays like a badly crafted assumption of what went on. To begin, I must admit that enjoying Sula in Skins is the main, if not sole, reason for praising her. For truly, something is off about her performance. Granted, Layla is supposed to be this fish out of water, trying to adapt as things come along, but what makes Sula’s performance awkward is when it is time to get emotional and not just be cute and sort of awkward. For, be it the script, or her co-stars, she seems to be drowning when trying to tap into her character’s emotions as everyone else is just trying to earn their paycheck and go home.
Which I say because, with a script like this, the only thing that could save it is the actors. All of which, including Sula, are almost instantly forgettable once the film is over. Ryan, as Layla’s mother, has some sort of story going on, dealing with her on and off again boyfriend, but so little is done with her character to allow Ryan to make her significant, and pretty much the same goes with damn near everyone else. For whether it is Troy’s rap career, and his group; Shaun’s family; or even Layla being more than someone’s girlfriend, and us learning what she may do with her artistic talents; there are many storylines ripe for development that are completely ignored to focus on relationship drama. Which, I understand, is what leads to the final moments, but I still feel like more could have been done to make it so that final moment was more shocking, or heartbreaking than something which makes you say “Finally it is over!”
Overall: Skip It
Like many films labeled “Skip It,” the potential is much higher than what is given, and while Sula made an admirable lead, something went amiss in the long run. Be it the script, her performance, or her performance combined with her co-stars, the end result made for a film which took a news headline about an interesting event, and made only the murder part interesting.