Catch Me Daddy is the hugely impressive debut feature from director Daniel Wolfe. At a Q&A at the recent Glasgow Film Festival, screening he described it as a modern take on the western genre. Having grown up watching these types of films on a Saturday afternoon (as did so many of us), style, imagery and storytelling of the Cowboy films all inform his debut.
Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed) and her boyfriend Aaron (Connor McCarron) are in hiding in bleak caravan site outside of a non-nondescript Northern town. For an undisclosed reason they are living life below the radar. They keep to themselves as much as possible with Laila on leaving to work in a local hair salon. It appears that Laila’s father is trying to find her. He has contracted two teams to get her back One set is comprised of Laila’s older brother and his friends, the other is two thugs for hire. On a tip off the two groups set off to the town searching for the couple.
It’s easy to understand how this could be described as a western especially one of the revisionist films from the 1970s when the lines between white hatted heroes and black hatted villains became blurred. Wolfe has created a world where everything is bleak and bare. The caravan site is situated at the top of a very exposed hillside with little around it attract the eye. The town, the people and the weather are all grey and foreboding. It is as if there is a dark cloud signifying the drama that is being brought down on the young couple. It has the look and feel of a frontier town in the old west.
The film examines the integration between the white and Pakistani communities in both the couple and the men hunting them down. Aaron and Laila show how, to an extent, it works. They both are after the same things. Albeit that involves drinking and drugs, but the point is there. For them it works. The thugs show a completely different picture. The leader of the Pakistani is shown at first to be a doting father to an infant girl, an image which is at odds with some of the stuff he gets involved with later on. The way he treats his own daughter bears no resemblance to the grief he feels he has to inflict on Laila.
The other group of thugs is a study in contrast. The older guy, Tony (Gary Lewis), is a complex character with his personal demons. He lives in isolation and gets by in a steady supply of Coke and the odd Valium. He has had a personal tragedy which is only alluded to in the film but never expanded. His partner Barry (Barry Nunney) is an out and out menace. He basically hates everyone with a particular intolerance for the Pakistani team. With him, violence is never too far away.
One of the more noteworthy aspects of the film is the way the audience is dropped into the drama. There is very little in terms of exposition and, as with Tony’s issues, the motivations of the characters are never fully developed. This allows the audience to develop their own theories as the story unfolds.
The performances are all excellent with Sameena Jabeen Ahmed standing out as Laila. There is an intensity and believability to her characterisation of a young girl torn between her family and the life she wants to have. Connor McCarron as Aaron is a brooding and sometimes intimidating presence on screen. His temper always appears to be just below the surface which links him a bit too close to his pursuers.
There is a fine use of music to inform the ramping up of tension. There are a couple of scenes where the scenes are underpinned with long single note electronics. Very effective in conveying the eeriness of the surroundings. One particularly good use of music is in the lead up to the thugs finally tracking down the couple. Laila and Aaron are partying and dancing to the Patti Smith song Land. The song starts slowly and quietly and then builds up, with the vocals and instrumentation becoming more frantic. As the couple dance together the scene is cut with the two carloads of trouble ascending to the caravan park. Without dialogue or drama the tension rises with each passing minute.
Overall, a superb debut feature that keeps you gripped and engaged for the entire film. Highly recommended.