Film Review: Catch Me Daddy

Film Review: Catch Me Daddy

“WHY did I create you?” cries an enraged and heartbroken father to his petrified daughter in Catch Me Daddy, a scorching drama from brothers Daniel and Matthew Wolfe.

As she stands on a chair with a noose round her neck, the daughter weeps in response: “Dad, can I please get down?”

Catch Me Daddy is a movie that interweaves thriller-style features with Western-genre tropes and a love-story.

It fuses social realism with a modern moral parable that exposes viewers to the world of honour killing and the jagged edges of multiculturalism. It is violent, exhilarating, tender and sometimes funny. Its visual impressions are both exotic and dreary and it’s a mark of the filmmakers’ skill that these qualities mix without ever clashing.

For this, their feature-length debut, the Wolfe brothers team up with Irish cinematographer Robbie Ryan. A graduate of the Dun Laoghaire College of Art and Design, Ryan is noted for bringing high-end cinematography to low-budget productions.

Ryan is like a Gregg Toland or Jack Cardiff for independent cinema. Having worked on acclaimed stuff like Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank (2009) and Stephen Fears’ Philomena (2013), Ryan’s imagery infuses Catch Me Daddy with competing contrasts of impenetrable dark and overpowering light. It’s a visual battle between good and evil.

The story is gradually revealed so the viewer must piece it together like a mosaic.

Set in run-down towns in northern England the action follows the travails of Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed), a teenage girl from a Pakistani background.

Laila has run off with her white boyfriend Aaron (Conor McCarron), disobeying the demands of her disaffected father Tariq (Wasim Zakir). He sends a gang of community tough guys to haul her back, led by the astoundingly menacing Junaid (Adrian Hussein), who hires two thuggish bounty hunters (Gary Lewis and Barry Nunney) for the quest.

Events unfold across a single pitch-black night. All the characters are slowly exposed to circumstances that make their actions more desperate or devastating.

While the white bounty hunters are in it for the money, the Pakistani men are fired by an unspoken but profoundly understood value code. Inter-racial tensions evoke narrative overlaps with Kenneth Glenaan’s Yasmin (2004) and Ken Loach’s Ae Fond Kiss (2004).

But the social realism eventually moves to a mythic footing more like Shane Meadows’ Dead Man’s Shoes (2004).

IslBGAs Laila and Aaron take flight across harsh and desolate moorlands, there are even recollections of John Ford’s The Searchers (1956). Like Catch Me Daddy, Ford’s classic Western also contemplates and confronts racial fanaticism.

While the action is exaggerated for dramatic effect, the conditions portrayed in Catch Me Daddy are real. There are numerous Northern towns sunk in post-industrial decay surrounded by sparse but picturesque landscapes. Here, as the filmmakers describe, some people live almost in a state of “lawlessness”, symbolic of a Wild West mise-en-scene.

The most robust existing moral ethos comes from the paternalistic authority of Muslim men. There really are community “guardians” who pursue runaways (mostly young women) and they actually hire bounty hunters to assist them.

The narrative patiently brings into focus the psychological effects of competing value systems. Characters commit appalling acts but viewers are allowed to witness the conflicting pressures that drive them. There are Greco-Roman hints of tragic irony.

Like many pursuit movies Catch Me Daddy relies, at times, on plot convenience. There are moments when actors stumble over dialogue and you sense these slips are expediently accepted for budgetary demands. Yet, all the performances are viscerally convincing, the depiction of events genuinely shocking and emotionally deeply disturbing. Catch Me Daddy might well be a minimalist masterpiece, if a flawed one, and it’s certainly a forceful assault on our senses.

Catch Me Daddy is in selected cinemas from Friday, February  27