Review: Catch Me Daddy

Daniel and Matthew Wolfe's debut feature - the elegant and brutal Catch Me Daddy - is an exercise in opposing qualities. We're first privy to the sight of a dilapidated mobile home, perched on a desolate hillside of the Yorkshire moors. The forbidding vision is accompanied by a deeply Northern voice-over, imparting a cryptic tale about the magical creation of the geography. The Wolfe brothers' brand of poetic realism cleverly blends bleak authenticity with a heightened, quasi-mystical element - making for an unsettling visual mosaic.

The story concerns Laila, a young British-Pakistani girl (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed) living with her unemployed boyfriend, Aaron. Such unemployment seems rife in Laila's corner of the world; even she, as an apprentice hairdresser, is struggling to pay her way. A distinct sense of the ominous is discernible long before any real assertion of danger; the filmmakers utilise wide-angle shots often, exploiting the inherently moody backdrop of the moors. The unnerving effect is particularly notable when two gangs of men - up to no good - meet at a service station; the camera is fixed across the motorway from them, almost at CCTV-level distance.

It soon becomes clear that Laila is a runaway. Her father - a conservative Muslim - has sent her brother, Saheed, to collect her and bring her home.  It isn't immediately clear what's transpired between Laila and her family, but a glance at her dyed pink hair, pierced nose, and affinity for getting stoned give us some clues about the rift. Laila's family are so desperate to find her that they're willing to employ two white thugs-for-hire; an uneasy pact is formed between races. They're united in their hunt for the girl, but the mutual contempt is palpable. Pursued by these two roving gangs, Laila and Aaron are eventually driven out of their home and into the freezing night. A chase - almost queasy in its intensity - then unfolds into the wee hours.

With frequent close-ups of Ahmed and her otherworldly green eyes, DP Robbie Ryan gives the film  a tinge of the occult. He has an eye for the fluorescent lights of late-night kebab shops and nightclubs, but also for nearly psychotropic imagery: aqua-blue nailpolish, albino pet pythons, and Laila's stoned, frenzied dancing to Patti Smith. It's an exquisitely singular aesthetic, in spite of a familiar Northern milieu.

These aesthetics are occasionally peppered by acts of pungently clear-eyed violence; a crushed skull here, a cut throat there. Given the film's focus on the multicultural working-class - and vaguely, on oppressive religious beliefs - it's treading on sensitive ground. Its unwillingness to squarely engage with the specifics of Laila's home life might prove problematic, for some. It seems unfair, though, to expect contemporary subject matter to be privileged over the parameters of genre. Catch Me Daddy is ultimately a crime thriller, and should be allowed the latitude to work itself out within the confines of its storytelling mode. That its chosen mode is oblique makes it leanly effective in the best sense.

With final sequences of ruthless, devastating power, Catch Me Daddy is a grim look into a web of masculine pride and ethnic division.  It's compellingly pessimistic, and a stunning debut.


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