By Sam Inglis @24fpsUK 24fps.org.uk
Catch Me Daddy begins slowly, drawing a portrait of separate lives, all of which seem to be lived on the margins of society. As the first half hour runs on we see that we’re following two sides of a story; a criminal gang and the two teenagers they are looking for. Initially I assumed that what had got Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed) and Aaron (Connor McCarron) in trouble was some kind of debt, but it turns out to be more personal, and more disturbing, than that.
This is tough, gritty stuff. For most of the running time Catch Me Daddy feels very well observed. Early scenes subtly show us the way Laila is living off the radar (as when she says she’ll bring a National Insurance number to work the next day, clearly not intending to). As it becomes clear why the gang are hunting for her and Aaron, and that several are related to Laila, the film develops a foreboding tone, promoted both by what unfolds on screen and by the fact that we know from the news that there is a threatening context behind what we’re seeing.
As downbeat and gritty as Catch Me Daddy can be, it has moments of ecstatic beauty. These are not in the story, which remains grim throughout, but in the imagery. One of the best decisions that director Daniel Wolfe has made here is to get Robbie Ryan on board as cinematographer. A shot early in the film of Laila walking on the misty moors is especially gorgeous, but even in moments that aren’t as immediately striking, Ryan’s photography brings beauty to the story’s ugliness.
The film falls into three quite distinct acts. The first brings the gang to Laila and Aaron’s door, the second has them trying to get away and the third goes off the rails a bit before delivering Laila to the place she’s been trying to avoid. Throughout, Sameena Jabeen Ahmed is excellent in her first film role. In the early scenes she establishes Laila as a likeable girl, while also giving us glimpses of both her fear and her wish to rebel against that fear. Aaron is less clear cut, and though I assume they are supposed to be together, but they don’t seem that close and without a little more of the history it’s tough to get a real handle on their relationship. However, that’s not to say anything bad about Connor McCarron’s forceful performance.
The performances among the gang pursuing Laila and Aaron are more of a mixed bag, with Gary Lewis making the best of the most well drawn part among them, but others, and the script, lapsing more into cliché as the film runs on. This is what mars their section of the third act.
There have been other films about honour crimes, but they have often been shrill, more concerned with making their point than with being dramatically engaging. Catch Me Daddy makes this balance much better by leaving this aspect almost unremarked upon until Laila is delivered. It worked for me because from about half an hour in I felt the film building with an uneasy sense of inevitability towards its ending. Even then though Daniel Wolfe and his co-writer brother Matthew managed to surprise me. The scene was basically the one I had expected, but the tone and the volume weren’t. It’s horrific, perhaps more so for the strained control that Wasim Zakir, in a one scene role, displays.
Catch Me Daddy has a few problems; the odd performance that feels a bit rote, a few less convincing scenes between the gang, but for the most part it is tense, disturbing and credible, right up to the final, awful, cut to black.
Catch Me Daddy is in cinemas from Friday 27th February