Prior to Catch Me Daddy, Daniel Wolfe‘s exhilarating modern-day western, its director was best known for The Shoes’ music video Time to Dance, in which Jake Gyllenhaal sporadically kills off hipsters in Dalston with hammers and a fencing sword. There are stylistic similarities that shine through, but he couldn’t have chosen a more antithetical subject for his feature-length debut.
Set in the desolate north of Leeds and Sheffield, this visceral fable skews the romantic premise of Romeo & Juliet with the bleakness and social realism of This is England. Think Ken Loach spliced with a horror-tinged Sergio Leone. The terrorizing tone and pace achieved by Wolfe is the film’s most potent asset. Wasting no time on exposition, he shoots straight for the action, leaving little time for the audience to find their feet. The chase-type narrative is immaculately executed, feverish and relentless. This is best achieved in a scene in which Laila and Aaron’s beguiling dance in their run-down caravan – to Patti Smith’s rebellious performance of Horses – is intersected with their pursuers honing in on them at an increasingly alarming rate.
The sincerity of the cast’s performances must be attributed to their lack of professional acting experience. Wolfe admits he chose to predominantly street-cast his characters, in order to achieve a higher level of authenticity, and it certainly has paid off. Jabeen Ahmed provides a mature and complex central performance as the strong-minded but petrified Laila. She anchors the film effortlessly, commanding the audience’s attention throughout. Connor McCarron (For Those in Peril, Neds) similarly impresses as her naïvely brave protector and boyfriend. The same can be said for Anwar Hussain whose performance as gang leader Junaid is truly callous and harrowing.
Yet cinematographer Robbie Ryan‘s (Philomena, Jimmy’s Hall) defining influence is unquestionable and should be most praised. His peerless ability to capture gorgeously arresting scenes – like with his previous works Red Road and Fish Tank – proves instrumental in simultaneously captivating and repulsing the audience. Dragged kicking and screaming further down this hellish rabbit hole of impending doom, you slowly relinquish hope and find yourself lulled away by his fascinating eye for cinematic imagery.
This certainly is Catch Me Daddy’s greatest strength but concurrently highlights its inherent shortcoming. Despite your initial investment in the protagonist’s plight, the stylish and unapologetically sharp execution ultimately detracts from the narrative and characters at the film’s core. It leads to a less satisfactory conclusion