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British Film Review: Catch Me Daddy
Directed By Daniel Wolfe
British cinema has been showing off its range and variety this week. At the top end, with its sizeable budget and big names, comes the escapist The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. At the other is the cause-related A Dark Reflection, a massive co-operative project involving over 1,000 people. And in the middle comes Catch Me Daddy, the low-budget directorial debut of Daniel and Matthew with its cast of non-actors. You’d think it had been planned ……
Catch Me Daddy also arrives clutching a BIFA for its leading lady, Sameena Jabeen Ahmed, plus other nominations, all of which have given the film a reputation long before its opening. Despite its contemporary setting in a bleak Yorkshire, its story is a classic – young lovers running away from their disapproving families.
We join their relationship after they’ve gone on the run, seeking sanctuary in a trailer on a windswept park. Aaron (Connor McCarron) is a drifting Scot, Laila (Ahmed) Pakistani English, helping out at a hair salon. But her father has employed a gang of bounty hunters to track them down and it’s only a matter of time before they turn up on the doorstep.
This is no romantic story of runaway lovers. The rural landscape is bleak and unforgiving – almost as unforgiving as Leila’s family – and the urban scenes are equally unwelcoming and run-down. In reality, the couple haven’t escaped, just swopped a difficult situation at home for something worse – little or no money and buzzes from codeine. And it doesn’t get any better when the bounty hunters show up.
The film gets off to a slow burn start, plunging us into the middle of Aaron and Laila’s relationship. As well as the couple, we also see two sets of men. Initially, the three groups appear to have no connection and we’ve no idea where the film is going – until a member of the Asian group refers to “she”: whoever she is, she’s missing and they’re looking for her. It all falls into place very quickly after that.
Violence rumbles and bubbles underneath the first half of the film. It’s ever present in the way both groups of men talk, and the audience continually wonders when it’s coming – because come it will. The first actual death is an accident. When the first deliberate killing comes, it’s not unexpected but it’s horrific and brutal, although we only see glimpses. The second one takes place inside a car – the weapon is a lethal Stanley knife – but most of what happens is seen from outside and at a distance. The splash of blood on the window is enough.
Laila’s relationship with men is at the heart of the film, and she always seems to have one to lean on. Boyfriend Aaron cares about her, yet there are times when he appears unduly possessive, forcefully ordering her not to go out with her friends to a club. Or is he just trying to make sure that she doesn’t get caught by the bounty hunters? In truth, it’s probably a combination of the two. Then there’s one of the white bounty hunters, a druggie who is her unlikely saviour when she’s in danger. His motives are even more suspect, as he pockets the fee from her father when he returns her home. And then he drives off, leaving her to her fate and his dealer out of pocket.
The third man, of course, is her father, who we only see in the final, extremely distressing scenes. The words “honour killing” are never used at any time during the film, but that’s the shadow hanging over it, and these scenes in particular . Leila is hysterical, constantly repeating the nick name her father gave her as a child, in the hope that it will sway his mind. And he does sway. Again and again. It’s highly charged stuff and both Ahmed and Wasim Zakir as her father are excellent.
Despite all the gloom and grit, Catch Me Daddy isn’t a film without beauty. Some of the photography is striking - Leila walking through the smoke on the windswept moors, for instance. A chase sequence in the dead of night, lit only by torches, is especially strong, as is the night club scene which ends in a massive fight. Laila’s desperation to escape and the club’s atmosphere merge into a chaotic blur. There are times, however, when cinematographer Robbie Ryan can’t resist just one more shot, and it’s often one shot too many – the strip lighting on the ceiling, the bottle of nail varnish spilling its contents (beautiful, though it is).
The Wolfe brothers have created a dour and depressing picture of contemporary Britain, but one which mixes a fresh approach with a traditional storyline. Using a cast of non-actors and, as the credits describe them, the people of Lancashire and Yorkshire, is inspired, bringing an authenticity tinged with the raw wind that continually blows on the moors. And Sameena Jabeen Ahmed is a name to watch for in the future.
'Catch Me Daddy' is currently on release in key cities in the UK.
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