A bleak, impressive directorial debut whose dreariness is matched with a haunting, poetic beauty.
Catch Me Daddy
A pair of distinct, green eyes make their way through an expanse of endless darkness, darting every which direction like a snake in the grass that can feel the hunger of the hawk soaring above. Only these eyes, this snake, is uncertain; they’re uncertain of whether they’re better off searching for something they’ll surely never find, or whether they should give in, be still, and fall victim to the forces on their tail.
Unwaveringly bleak to the point of being one of the most distressing cinematic experiences of the year, Catch Me Daddy follows the rapid downward spiral of a young runaway couple, the British-Pakistani Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed, making her feature debut) and her Scottish-Caucasian boyfriend Aaron (Connor McCarron). They’re on the run from Laila’s family, an organized crime syndicate of which she longer wants anything to do with. She and Aaron take to the road and hide out in the isolation of the Yorkshire Moors, a hollow and barren landscape that director Daniel Wolfe and cinematographer Robbie Ryan display with a sense of haunting, poetic beauty.
This exhibition of spectacular visual poetry lurking beneath an incessant dreariness at the film’s core should come as no surprise to those familiar with the previous works of Wolfe and Ryan. Before delving into this project, Wolfe was already an award-winning music video director whose credits included The Shoes’ “Time to Dance,” featuring a murderous Jake Gyllenhaal, as well as the intensely cinematic video for Paolo Nutini’s “Iron Sky,” in which there are a number of aesthetic similarities to Catch Me Daddy.
In fact, one might want to check out the Nutini video prior to delving into Wolfe’s feature length directorial debut, as it almost works as a prologue to the film, at least with regard to the themes of cycles and addiction, which he seems to enjoy (and succeed in) tackling as a filmmaker. Ryan’s cinematographic credits, on the other hand, include the gorgeous films of Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank, Wuthering Heights) and Ken Loach (The Angels’ Share, Jimmy’s Hall), so it came as no surprise when Catch Me Daddy turned out to be just as wonderfully shot as his prior collaborations, especially with regard to his exemplary use of natural light.
The visuals and the atmosphere aren’t the only aspects of the film to be commended. The absorbing performances from the entire cast, a blend of professional and non-professional actors, lets the substance match the style, forcing viewers to become invested in the characters. It’s easy to care deeply about the well-being of Laila and Aaron, which is what makes it all the more difficult when the film descends into violent chaos following a psychedelic dance sequence (choreographed by musician FKA Twigs), acting as a turning point in what had, up until that point, been a relatively loose and eventless narrative.
Indeed, it isn’t until well into Catch Me Daddy’s second act that the film shifts from an exercise in kitchen sink realism to full-blown Shakespearian tragedy. The remainder of the film becomes a fast-paced, migratory journey through gloomy British landscapes reminiscent of the nearly wordless films of Philippe Grandrieux. Audience expectations, nonetheless, will be continuously subverted as a series of shocking scenes constitute the remainder Laila and Aaron’s hopeless odyssey. Then comes the film’s unforgettable final sequence, a culmination of everything that comes before it: an exploration of interpersonal relationships, familial ties and the notions of attachment & co-dependence. As Laila’s vivid, green eyes begin to dart around once more, searching for a non-existent escape route, the beak of the hawk is now only centimeters above, and our understanding of the film’s title takes on a new and frightening meaning.
Catch Me Daddy opens in theaters on August 7th, and will be available to rent on VOD on September 1st.