Sitting somewhere between the social realism of Ken Loach and the nightmarish children’s story of Night of the Hunter, Catch Me Daddy is one of the most intense British films in about a decade.
Sameena Jabeena Ahmed plays Leila, a young woman from a Pakistani family. Living in West Yorkshire with her boyfriend Aaron things start off innocuously enough; she works in a hairdressers, has seemingly meaningless conversations with people in milkshake shops and Aaron sits at home smoking weed. Scenes are presented as small vignettes wonderfully photographing the grimness of the northern streets and the harsh beauty of the Yorkshire countryside. All the while we cut between two bailiff looking trackers (one of which is played by Gangs of New York and Billy Elliott‘s Gary Lewis) who are working with a group of Pakistani men in the hunt for Leila. Things take a violent turn as Leila’s hideout with her British boyfriend is discovered leading to a cross country chase and a climactic confrontation that will linger in viewers memories long after the film has finished.
Much has been made of Catch Me Daddy‘s style of filmmaking. Certainly that’s how I started this review, it’s hand-held location based shooting lulls you into a sense that you’re watching a film which could have appeared on Play for Today back in the 60s. The films overall conceit of a young Pakistani running away from home in fear that she’ll incur the wrath of her family and may fall victim to an honour killing is a subject which still grips and appalls people countrywide. So much so it’s a wonder more feature films have not been made touching on the issue. Perhaps it’s a subject some feel shy of tackling given its cultural and social particulars.
This element coupled with the film’s chase element is what really helps stand apart from other drama thrillers. There’s no bombastic soundtrack or quickly edited car chases but Catch Me Daddy has all the tropes of a chase thriller, it’s just more leisurely with it’s pacing. This is something some viewers may find a turnoff as the film walks the line between this and a straightforward drama. Some scenes which offer small character developments feel redundant. The aforementioned milkshake shop where Leila chats with the servers who seem high goes nowhere fast but still you feel like it MUST have a reason to be there.
The performances are subtle and roundly impressive Ahmed especially stands out. Going through the entire spectrum of emotions from tears of laughter to terror it’s in no small part to her quality that the film has such a lasting effect. Director Daniel Wolfe clearly agrees, allowing the camera to simply linger on her face several times. Her saucer-like eyes taking on an almost supernatural quality in some moments.
Catch Me Daddy is an unnerving and memorable film if not entirely successful. The pace slacks in places, some scenes are drawn out whilst others flash by. Although honour killing is used as a way to propell the story the wider issues are never addressed. It’s not to say that Daniel and co-writer Matthew Wolfe have to carry that weight on their shoulders but it feels like a missed opportunity. Above all else though Catch Me Daddy is well acted and stylistic gem that should stand next to Dead Man Shoe’s and London to Brighton as one of the standout British thrillers of the century so far.
4 / 5
Dir: Daniel Wolfe
Scr: Daniel Wolfe, Matthew Wolfe
Starring: Sameena Jabeena Ahmed, Connor McCarron, Gary Lewis
Prd: Michael Elliott, Hayley Williams
DOP: Robbie Ryan
Music: Daniel Thomas Freeman, Matthew Watson
Run time: 112 mins
Catch Me Daddy is available on Blu-Ray, DVD and EST now.