March 3 2015
UK independent film has stylish and tough edge but our reviewer wonders aloud whether it’s enough…
By Sunil Chauhan
IN ONE SCENE from pursuit thriller “Catch Me Daddy”, we see a screensaver on a character’s phone. It reads ‘Trust No One’. It’s a good precis of the paranoia that pervades this film, a bold, accomplished debut from brothers Daniel and Matthew Wolfe. Inspired by newspaper reports of ordered murders and the killers paid to carry them out, we follow two posses (one white, one Asian) on the trail of British Pakistani girl ‘Laila’ (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed) and her white boyfriend ‘Aaron’ (Conor McCarron).
They’re on the hunt for the teenage lovers, living a low-key existence in a caravan, but there’s a cloud of fear and distrust hanging over every minute of their seemingly idyllic lives. When they dance manically to Patti Smith, it’s as much fun as it is a necessity – an outlet for some of the tension they’re under, that is never explicitly even obliquely expressed.
The unspoken is a recurring feature of “Catch Me Daddy” – we never find out the true circumstances of why Laila is on the run, except that it appears to stem from an incident in Pakistan where she was abandoned, presumably to get married. The film perhaps wisely – or conveniently – has little interest in the issues that affect its characters. It keeps them in the distance, as circumstance-shaping details that we are left to fill in. It gives the film a hand-in-mouth dread, one where you’re almost as much in the dark as the leads, but know something terrible is lurking inevitably around the corner – the terror and tragedy is inescapable.
Handled in a crisp, economic style shot by veteran cinematographer Robbie Ryan, the Wolfes balance deceptively non-judgemental shots of their settings with primeval thrust, rendering the Yorkshire moors into a backdrop for a gothically foreboding twist on western genre-tropes (or should that be northern?). One grisly shot in particular, of a kestrel picking apart its meal, seems to lay out the film’s twin claims to ‘Kes-style’ realism (Ken Loach 1969) and rural, domestic horror. With a taste for abject pessimism, the Wolfes want to make you suffer as they appear to tell it like it is.
It’s left to the brilliant Ahmed as spiky Laila to give this film its tenderness. Craving for relations with the men in her family to be harmonious, she encounters huge distress when reminded that they may never be – there are only controlling, untrustworthy men on screen here. There is a similar complexity to her father, who appears in a final, torturous scene, where we finally see the Daddy (the excellent Wasim Zakir) whose presence has loomed over every frame. If every bit the tyrant we expected to see (“why did I create you?” he cries), he is also deeply knotted. Enraged and inconsolable, he’s following a code we’re not sure he wants to, but seems duty-bound to observe.
Much of the response to “Catch Me Daddy” has politely avoided making too much of its British Asian milieu or indeed, its actual subject matter. You can see why – journalists don’t want to be seen to be perpetuating Muslim stereotypes. But the result has left a brown elephant in the room. For while stories of aggressive, patriarchal fathers controlling freedom-hungry daughters are universal – think: Maurice Pialat’s “A Nos Amours” (‘To Our Loves’ 1983) – the Wolfes chose to write theirs around northern British Pakistanis for a reason. It gives it a resonance the filmmakers are capitalising on, but so far shying away from unambiguously discussing, an odd response for a film that pulls no punches. A great part of the impact of “Catch Me Daddy” is derived from its assumed authenticity, but having got the subject up there – which deserves credit – its single minded devotion to style over some of the attendant issues looks a little too easy. That may be no bad thing in a movie which isn’t shouting about a cause, but as one of the few films about a sensitive subject – one that deserves to be explored cinematically, you can’t help but expect more.
ACV rating:*** (out of five)
Main picture: Aaron (Conor McCarron) and Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed) in ‘Catch Me Daddy’
*Interview with actor Wasim Zakir (father Tariq in film) about ‘Catch Me Daddy’
*Sameena Jabeen Ahmed BFI London Film Festival winner 2014