Part of the 2014 BFI London Film Festival
In the Wolfe brothers’ debut, Catch Me Daddy, Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed) and her boyfriend Aaron (Connor McCarron) are on the run from her traditional Pakistani family, in this tense British thriller. Why the couple are on the run is never made explicitly clear but her brother, Zaheer (Ali Ahmad) and a group of thugs sent by Laila’s father, pursue the young lovers across the cold Yorkshire hills, on a bleak winter’s night.
At the film’s beginning, Laila and Aaron are hiding in a caravan. It’s an unforgiving environment, one where all sounds seem amplified by the West Yorkshire moors’ eeriness. This isn’t loves young dream; it’s milkshakes, drugs and the bitter cold for company. Laila and Aaron’s relationship never feels that passionate – it’s held together by circumstance, a lot of weed and their friendship. Maybe they were in love once but in their extreme situation the passion has subdued, giving way to cabin fever and moments of resentment.
The two have been in their abode for a little while, as Laila has a job at a local hairdresser. (However, she’s yet to give her employer her National Insurance Number, so perhaps this shows a pattern of their life on the run.) And while Laila works hard at the local hairdressers, Aaron sits at home in the caravan creating new ways of getting high.
Laila and Aaron are clearly struggling for money but when Laila suggests that Aaron should get a job too, he balks at the idea – as if he’s too good to be washing dishes. Laila also yearns for normality, becoming annoyed when Aaron refuses to let her go to a nightclub with her boss. (The implication being that it’s too dangerous for her.) If Laila is on the run from her overbearing, gangster father, it’s becoming clear that she swapped one bad situation for another.
As the scene is set on Laila and Aaron’s happy home, we’re introduced to Zaheer and his father’s Pakistani thugs. This is then followed by a rendezvous at a disused motorway station with two local Yorkshire thugs, Tony (Gary Lewis) and Barry (Barry Nunney). From here the film essentially slips into a montage of chase scenes across Yorkshire, until a convenient but believable kidnapping brings the duos “life on the lam”, to a brutal conclusion.
The Wolfe brothers most obvious contemporary is Andrea Arnold, what with their stark, realist vision and their actors naturalistic and understated performances. Arnold’s Wuthering Heights bares a great deal of similarity to Catch Me Daddy, if only in tone and setting. It also doesn’t hurt that their cinematographer, Robbie Ryan worked with Arnold on Fish Tank.
But one of the film’s most enjoyable aspects is its reverence and reinterpretation of the Western genre. Catch Me Daddy is steeped in Western lore – think The Searchers meets the Yorkshire Dales. In particular, Tony and Barry are literally “guns for hire”, but instead of Stetsons and chaps they’re in in denim and shellsuits.
Catch Me Daddy is a confident debut, for its directors and its star, Sameena Jabeen Ahmed. Its palate is stark and oppressive, and the characters’ fates feel sealed from the outset. As much as it’s indebted to British realist cinema and even the Western, it’s sense of dread and foreboding is indebted to film noir. It’s certainly not light-hearted, but it’s a beautifully realized vision.
Catch Me Daddy is available on DVD, BluRay, and on Video On Demand from September 25th, 2015, courtesy of StudioCanal. Extras include The Shoes’ music video “Time to Dance”, directed by Daniel Wolfe.