Written by brothers Daniel and Matthew Wolfe (and then directed by Daniel) and set in dreary towns and muted green hills of Yorkshire, we follow the cross-culture relationship between British Pakistani runaway Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed) and her friend/boyfriend (this is never made explicitly clear) Aaron (Conor McCarron). Her male family members are pursuing her with the help of two violent local hired goons, with the aim of bringing her back to her ashamed father.
Daniel and Matthew Wolfe may be telling a relatively simple and bleak story, but it’s Catch Me Daddy’s bravura execution and originality that makes it an essential and important footprint in the history of homegrown cinema. It’s very much a melting pot of genres comprising elements of crime, western, noir and horror, and it simultaneously manages to transcend the sum of its parts. Though a first time director, Wolfe’s background in music videos (The Shoes, Chase and Status, Paolo Nutini) affords him the confidence to inject the proceedings with a giant dose of directorial flare.
Almost entirely street cast, the performances are authentic right across the board, Psycho-moron bounty hunter Barry (Barry Nunney) reminds me of far too many people I’ve had the displeasure of meeting, Laila (it’s almost impossible to believe Sameena Jabeen Ahmed has NEVER acted before) is excellent throughout as are all the bit players. There’s an awesomely memorable and fleeting moment from a Milkshake salesmen proving just how much care has gone into the details here.
Shot on 33mm film Wolfe and Cinematographer Robbie Ryan (Fish Tank) manage to make the mundane North Yorkshire landscape look stunningly cinematic. The use of natural and artificial light is very well contrasted throughout and serves the story’s hidden themes of universality, control and nature. The soundtrack is wonderfully eclectic with Nicki Minaj brushing shoulders with Tim Buckley, club music and Patti Smith.
It’s all very well paced and never forgets to be engaging as a thriller as well as thoughtful cinema. It takes 30 minutes of well balanced set up before we properly meet the main players, and events really kick into gear 45 minutes in as the tension mounts to excruciating levels.
Catch Me Daddy is an extremely violent film, and at times difficult to watch. Various news stories of real world “honour” killings (though the phrase is never used in the film) inspired the screenplay. The hunters at the centre of the story, while fully developed are never less than disgustingly idiotic human beings caught in a cycle of behaviour that they themselves don’t understand. We meet a philosophical cabbie that laments “My life is about everybody else. I don’t know what I do. I just do what I do” which sums up much of the overall sentiment here.
There’s something very elemental about it all. The secret connections, and strange private rituals people have when they think nobody’s looking, be that pissing on your hand in a urinal stall, staring intently at a wall or saying an unspoken prayer to a house. Birds, meat, laser 3d sculptors, chemical medications, fish, lizards, fruit and vending machines, halogen bulbs and fluorescent lights all ask for the attention of the viewer as if to say that humans create things to feel like they’re in control of their fate, but all of these man-made constructs are just another part of the natural order.
Laila’s father doesn’t quest for her to return for any purpose born of love, only to exact total control and thus mastery of his own life. And so, the title finally makes sense in the very final frame, where you can almost hear Laila psychically screaming it at her father, perhaps ready to let an inevitable fate finally run its course.
Intelligent, beautiful, bleakly comical at points and profoundly disturbing Catch Me Daddy is excellence that demands multiple viewings and stays with you long after its upsetting and sobering finale. I can’t recommend it enough and eagerly await a follow-up from the brothers Wolfe.
Review by Mark Bartlett
Catch Me Daddy is out now on DVD.