DIR: Daniel Wolfe • WRI: Daniel Wolfe, Matthew Wolfe • PRO: Michael Elliott, Hayley Williams • DOP: Robbie Ryan • ED: Dominic Leung, Tom Lindsay • MUS: Matthew Watson, Daniel Thomas Freeman • DES: Sami Khan • CAST: Sameena Jabeen Ahmed, Connor McCarron, Gary Lewis, Barry Nunney, Wasim Zakir
Best known for his artistic vision on commercials and music videos (Plan B ‘Prayin’, The Shoes ‘Time to Dance’), Daniel Wolfe’s debut feature film Catch Me Daddy is a British social realist thriller and tells the story of British-Pakistani Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed) who has escaped from her despotic father and gone into hiding with her white boyfriend, Aaron (Conor McCarron). Defying the tenets of her religious faith, Laila’s father (Wasim Zakir) deploys an armed mob to track down the teenagers and return Laila home for punishment, forcing the fugitive lovers on the run to save their lives.
Set in the mystic and tranquil environs of the Yorkshire Moors and drawing on conventions from the Western and road movie genres, Catch Me Daddy is an unflinching, emotive and deeply troubling account of an illicit and fateful love affair. The narrative is structured between day and night and the plot unfolds from two perspectives; the predatory hunters and the nihilistic hunted, each marked by a sharp contrast in technical style. By day, the two lovers, enclosed in their oasis of freedom; a cramped mobile home on the margins of a grim northern town, attempt to settle into fugitive bliss, aware their fleeting contentment is merely a reprieve. The hostile mob, hot on their trail, is divided into two factions. The Muslims, headed by Laila’s brother Zaheer (Ali Ahmad) are bound by a religious code of honour to avenge Laila’s cultural ignominy, while the white rabble, unemployed Tony (Gary Lewis) and Barry (Barry Nunney) are motivated by a cash reward to fuel an excessive cocaine habit. As the predators close in, an ominous shift from an interminably anaemic daytime into a frenzied nocturnal chase mobilises grim brutality and blood-curdling violence in the pursuit of vengeance and greed.
Stunningly shot on 35mm, acclaimed Irish cinematographer Robbie Ryan (Philomena, The Angels’ Share) melds drab, soulless northern towns with the melancholic misty moors in the first act, creating a tense and foreboding platform from which to jerk the narrative into the heightened pandemonium of the second. Infused with kaleidoscopic waves of surrealism and symbolism underpinned by hallucinatory sound design techniques, the furious road trip sequences and intense cat and mouse chases deviate wildly from the parameters of social realism and become more akin to a noirish thriller. The musical score weaves original atmospheric trances with magnetically frantic tracks, intending to both lure and distance, devices that intensify the film’s themes of alienation, dissatisfaction and marginalisation, to create a raw and contradictory portrait of social tensions in contemporary Britain.
The use of non-professional actors with professional actors and a largely improvised script heightens the sense of verisimilitude and while at times such inexperience is evident as the pace overwhelms the non-professionals, the incoherency also heightens the palpable urgency and terror running through the narrative. There is quite an over-saturation of underdeveloped characters that have potentially intriguing narratives but Wolfe predominantly remains focused on the gendered nature of honour killings, giving an identity to the victims behind such egregious cultural acts.
Sameena Jabeen Ahmed makes an impressive acting debut as the young British Muslim who has to reconcile new identities in Britain with a culture and heritage that is informed by the past. Such new identities place her at odds with father and brother, who remain contained within a strict cultural, religious and patriarchal framework. She strikes the perfect balance between wilful, coming-of-age independence, rejecting the social fetters and the lack of agency dictated by her culture and a naïve, childlike innocence, seemingly uneducated to the stigma her actions produce within a traditional, religious context.
Laila’s father, the omnipresent despot who drives the plot, chillingly emerges in the final act, illustrating the seriously problematic nature of intergenerational dynamics between British Muslims. Bearing the burden of paternal love for his daughter but bound to restore the cultural honour she has defiled which exceed any parental sentiments, the climax is frighteningly palpable, returning to the suffocating claustrophobia and tense anticipation executed at the beginning, a dénouement that may not satisfy all audiences.
Like the Western, the social realist film can be reflective of the current socio-cultural climate and with the current spate of gendered-based violence and honour killings rising in the UK and the increasing growth of Islamophobia, the film will undoubtedly polarize audiences. Daniel Wolfe is quick to delineate the gendered nature of honour killings and a cultural framework that deifies a son and demonises a daughter. Catch Me Daddy marks a bold and impressive debut from Wolfe and, although in need of some refinement, shows promise of great things to come.
Catch Me Daddy is released 27th February 2015