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New Release Review - Catch Me Daddy

A teenage runaway is hunted by her fundamentalist family.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Daniel Wolfe

Starring: Sameena Jabeen Ahmed, Connor McCarron, Gary Lewis, Kate Dickie, Barry Nunney


It's rarely been as grim up North as the milieu portrayed in Catch Me Daddy, the intense feature debut of director Daniel Wolfe, co-writing with his brother Matthew. Set entirely in the northern English county of Yorkshire, the film paints a bleak picture of a modern Britain torn between two growing cultures: the hedonistic, Godless general British public and the increasingly marginalised fundamentalist Islamic community. With its grim world of tacky nightclubs, all-night Kebab shops and crumbling council estates, even the Baskervilles' hound would think twice before venturing out onto these moors.
Laila (Ahmed) may be second generation Pakistani, but she's a typical British teen; she listens to terrible music, wears too much makeup and lives on a diet of junk food and drugs. Most parents would encourage her to change her lifestyle, but Laila's father simply wants to end her life, feeling her embracing of western decadence has brought such a degree of dishonour on the family name that only her murder will appease his God. Laila is on the run with her Scottish boyfriend Aaron (McCarron) and living in a caravan in the Yorkshire town of Calderton. You would think they would flee to London where they could disappear in the throng of Europe's largest metropolis rather than just a few miles away from Laila's home, but I guess Laila and Aaron aren't the brightest kids.
It's not long before Laila's father learns of their location and dispatches his son and three of his mates to find his daughter and the infidel she's absconded with. To aid in the manhunt are a pair of white thugs (presumably because the locals are likelier to cooperate with them than with a gang of Muslim men), Barry (Nunney), a neckless ape, and Tony, an aging Scot with a cocaine habit. The relationship between the two groups is fraught to say the least. Before an initial meeting, Barry urinates on his hand and refuses to wash it before shaking hands with his Muslim employers, who bicker among themselves about the necessity of hiring these idiots.
Premiering at last year's Cannes film festival, Catch Me Daddy went into production long before ISIS became a regular feature on global news reports. Add the recent string of religously motivated attacks on Europe's capitals, and the Wolfe brothers are (unfortunately) tapping into the zeitgeist. Thanks to Jihadi John and his mates, the image of masked, British-accented Muslims now has a resonance that wasn't present when the film was playing in the South of France. One sequence involving a bound and gagged Kate Dickie forced to look into the lens of her captor's camera-phone is particularly resonant. Women don't fare well in this world of macho Muslims and muscled morons.
While the Wolfes' film deals with an all too real contemporary issue, it's first and foremost a genre movie, much like last year's '71. Where Yann Demange's film gave us the Ulster 'troubles' by way of Escape From New York, Catch Me Daddy presents us with a look at religious fundamentalism by way of The Terminator, night club set piece et al. There's a Hitchcockian employment of macabre humour to diffuse tension, such as when the driver of a taxi Laila and Aaron use to escape their hunters begins to blather on about the banality of his home-life, and Barry's display of ignorance in interrogating the Polish receptionist of a tanning salon ("We don't get Asian girls in tanning salons," she replies in the desert dry manner only Polish girls can).
Catch Me Daddy is essentially a chase movie, and it's a particularly tense one. As a piece of social realism, it's not quite so successful. While the film certainly won't be playing in Saudi Arabia any time soon, it's far from an outright attack on Islam, with the film's white characters portrayed in just as poor a light, but you can't help feel this is an issue best addressed by a filmmaker who is a member, current or former, of the Islamic community.




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