Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Catch Me Daddy (2015)

If Ken Loach remade the epic John Ford western The Searchers, it would probably look rather like this...

Catch Me Daddy is is a bleak, visceral cinematic feature debut from Daniel Wolfe, a former music video director (who has also co-written the script his brother Matthew) concerning the murderous phenomenon of the 'honour killing' in British Pakistani communities.  Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed - an incredible performance) and Aaron (Conor McCarron) live together in a squalid caravan on the edge of the unforgiving Yorkshire Moors. They are ostensibly in love, but Laila's family - believing she has brought shame upon them - refuse to tolerate their relationship, and have hired a posse of hardened bounty hunters — Tony and Barry, a strictly mercenary white duo (Gary Lewis and Barry Nunney) and a South Asian four man crew led by Junaid (Anwar Hussain) and accompanied by Laila's brother Zaheer (Ali Ahmad)  ­— to forcibly split them apart and return her back to them.

Naturally given the weight of the issue the film deals with, its tone is both harrowing and pessimistic. Wolfe's eye and Robbie Ryan's fantastic cinematography capture the ugly harsh savagery of life in its many forms; drugs feature in various forms, not least of all Gary Lewis' coke snorting, but there's also a preoccupation with pills too. There's a moment early on where Aaron watches a falcon decimate its live prey which sees the camera linger on the gore and is a potent metaphor for the hunter and their prey to come - indeed the camera often strays around bloodletting, not in an exploitative way, but in a strangely sensitive, lyrical manner, almost as the calm before the storm. It's certainly a very visually striking movie, boasting imagery that will remain with you for some time after viewing.

The film boldly foregoes any sense of a great love affair between Laila and Aaron. They are living in a reasonably contented manner, but still with a degree of tension borne of constantly looking over one's shoulder. There is some sweet talk of childhood experiences and crazed dancing to Patti Smith's Horses, but the connection is never really felt, making their relationship seem all the more futile when considered against the danger they face. Overall you get the feeling that these are just two disenfranchised kids who have simply ended up together as a form of escapism of one kind or another. The irony is however that it appears Laila may have swapped one controlling male in her life for another as she earns pin money working in a dreary local salon whilst Aaron refuses to budge from the caravan or entertain the notion of the menial work on offer in the town.

The action is split between them and their hunters; Junaid is definitely the alpha male here, a cold and impassive figure who Wolfe introduces with an ironic gentility, having a 3D picture taken of him and his baby daughter in a shopping centre. Once the action gets under way, we realise we've been sold a dummy here and its chilling to reflect on the suggestion Wolfe implicitly made with just such an introduction - that some time in the future Junaid might be unable to come to terms with his grown-up daughter's  Western liberal nature, the expression of her sexuality or her overall maturity just like Laila's father right now in the present. The Asian bounty hunters have an uneasy alliance with Tony and Barry, the white men they have contacted to help through their work on the club doors. Barry Nunney's Barry is a truly frightening, loutish monster, whilst Tony, played by Gary Lewis, is clearly a troubled older soul, struggling with an obvious drug addiction and lacking the necessary aggression or focus for the task ahead. He also appears to have family issues of his own and the estranged parent and child relationship is a theme that runs throughout the film in various guises.

This is a bleakly beautiful, scary, exciting and authentically gritty piece of social realism, but it is perhaps not for the faint hearted - some scenes are really difficult to watch because of the high emotion and unflinching spectacle on display. The film's final moments may divide opinion but there's no denying that this is a blistering debut from Wolfe who, on this form, could easily take his place alongside the likes of Clio Barnard, Andrea Arnold and Shane Meadows as part of this generation's cinematic social realists.

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