Directors: Daniel Wolfe, Matthew Wolfe
Cast: Sameena Jabeen Ahmed, Conor McCarron, Gary Lewis, Wasim Zakir
Watch Catch Me Daddy online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
When brothers Daniel and Matthew Wolfe started getting attention for their debut film, Catch Me Daddy, comparisons to the likes of Ken Loach were all but inevitable. But the closest reference point to Catch Me Daddy isn’t Kes or The Wind that Shakes the Barley, but Threads, Barry Hines’ now infamous TV drama, which shows Sheffield being obliterated by a nuclear explosion.
The opening scenes are the epitome of kitchen sink realism, as a young Muslim girl called Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed) meanders through the streets and hills of West Yorkshire with her boyfriend Aaron (Connor McCarron). The scenes are often sweet or – like a memorable encounter in a milkshake shop – disarmingly funny, but Robbie Ryan’s stunning cinematography lends a tense, oppressive air to every frame; fog covers the hills and dales, hiding monsters who could jump out at any moment.
Trouble soon arrives in the form of two pairs of men – modern-day bounty hunters who are looking for Laila to take her back to her father. The metaphorical explosion that ensues is not quite apocalyptic in scale, but for the young couple, the fallout is just as devastating. Laila and Aaron find themselves on the run, stumbling through the wilderness with their pursuers just a few steps behind.
The Wolfe brothers reportedly cast Sameena Ahmed after spotting her on a street in Manchester, and it’s easy to see why. From the moment we first see her on screen with her wide staring eyes and shocking pink hair, she’s a captivating presence; the fact that her performance is so raw and unpolished only makes it shine all the brighter. Ditto Barry Nunney, another newcomer, who plays one of the men chasing her – the first time we see him, he urinates on his own hand in a petrol station toilet before using it to shake the hand of Laila’s brother.
It’s a fascinating exchange, the epitome of the racial tension that underpins the film’s events, and it contaminates its characters like radiation sickness. Though it’s never explicitly mentioned throughout, we know exactly why Laila and Aaron are being hunted – and what Laila’s father will do once she’s returned to him. It’s a notion that’s all the more powerful for its subtlety, which makes it somewhat disappointing that the story lurches into melodrama in its closing minutes. It’s uncomfortably easy to imagine Ukippers using the ending as evidence to demonstrate some kind of point about the British Muslim population.
Still, these are the kinds of mistakes often made by first-time directors, and Catch Me Daddy gets far more right than it gets wrong. The Wolfes have established themselves as a major new talent in British cinema. Whatever their next move, it’ll almost certainly be worth watching.