Catch Me Daddy
UK (2014) Dir. Daniel Wolfe
“This is going end bad. It is going to end real bad.”
Honour killings are something those of us living under western culture and religion will never understand, but under Islamic law it is perfectly acceptable to kill a member of your own family – usually female – if they “bring shame” to them by dating outside of their religion. And people wonder why I am an atheist…
In the Yorkshire town of Calderton, Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed), a young British- Asian woman and her white idler boyfriend Aaron (Conor McCarron) are hiding out in a dingy caravan, having run away from home. Having lasted this long off the radar of Laila’s strict Islamic family, her brother Zaheer (Ali Ahmad) has finally closed in on their whereabouts with help from hired thugs Barry (Barry Nunney) and Tony (Gary Lewis).
Zaheer finds the caravan whilst Laila was alone and tries to talk her into coming home to their sick father Tariq (Wasim Zakir); she refuses and they fight with Zaheer accidentally killed. Laila flees and catches up with Aaron who had managed to give Barry the slip, but now they must avoid being caught and with a violent and relentless group after them, that is easier said than done.
This debut from Daniel Wolfe, co-written with his brother Matthew, is not an easy watch for a myriad of reasons. Whilst not a full-on trenchant attack on Islam, there won’t be many rave reviews for it found in idle conversations at your nearest Mosque, nor will any of us faithless infidels feel comfortable with what is shown here either. Then there is the violence which is brief but decidedly feral and shockingly brutal.
Discussing new directors often means comparing them to existing ones as a helpful way to inform others of what they can expect, although mileage will vary as to how accurate of this. So, for what it is worth, by my rough estimation, Catch Me Daddy begins with the gritty, observational naturalism of Ken Loach and Shane Meadows, before Loach is jarringly replaced by Kill List-era Ben Wheatley, but with its own raw edge.
“Raw” is an apt and widely used description for a lot of what is shared here and for good reason, working for both good and bad. Laila may be of Pakistani heritage but she is also a British girl at heart, perhaps more so, which obviously doesn’t sit well with her father and brother. As nothing is made explicit, we can only assume her crime is to hook up with a Scottish lad and not be anchored to a loveless arranged marriage which sounds petty and unjust to western sensibilities.
Since he doesn’t work and prefers to sit at home and smoke pot while Laila works at a hair salon, Aaron doesn’t seem like much of a catch but Laila loves him and he must feel the same or he wouldn’t have ran away with her. In a rare moment of bliss, the young slightly toned couple freak out to a Patty Smith track that delineates the depth of the relationship more than any sexual demonstration might, but sadly, this is mere moments before their lives are to be upended again.
Brother Zaheer is flanked by Muslims Junaid (Anwar Hussain), Bilal (Adrian Hussain), and Shoby (Shoby Kaman) at Tariq’s behest, later implied to be a lack of faith in his son. As it transpires, Junaid is as bloodthirsty as Zaheer is emotional; Zaheer still plays the senior male role over his sister with typical entitlement and lack of empathy, which is more than Junaid does when he final catches up with Laila.
For shaved ape Barry and older coke addict Tony, this is purely about money, especially for the latter, yet this might be a cynical move by Tariq as if he expects Pakistanis won’t get a warm welcome in Yorkshire, so have a couple of white faces helps. It really must be grim up North if that is the case, not that we’re any better here in the south. Anyway, the do most of the leg work and prove successful, but not all philosophical differences can be placated by money.
Yet, for all the grisly violence, unpleasant racial tension, and rampant drug use, the real horror is found in the final act when – spoiler – father and daughter are reunited. There may be hugs but they alternate between physical threats and bemoaning of having sired a daughter. Tariq is a figure of contradictions – he wants to have his “Chum Chum” back and forgive her but his strict Islamic indoctrination says Laila must be punished for the humiliation she brought him, and he won’t disobey that.
Wolfe leaves things open ended, the ambiguity as torturous as the scenes that precede it. None of it seems real to those of us outside of Islamic instruction, and I hope the Wolfe brothers did plenty of research into this first. As I said earlier, this is far from a positive depiction of Muslims, though white folk aren’t painted as angels either, through their drug use, mercenary motivations, excessive brawn, and racial attitudes.
Also making her debut, and so far only acting role, is Sameena Jabeen Ahmed as Laila, joining the ranks of young British actresses who effortlessly embody the essence of their characters with alarming realism. The final scene is where it all comes together, a gnarly and strained essaying of a girl trapped between two nightmares at the hand of the man who should be her protector, this is emotionally draining but horrifically compelling.
Catch Me Daddy is thus far the only feature film from former music video director Wolfe, which might be telling given how bold it is. The open ending won’t sit well with everyone as much as he content will rub some feathers in some quarters, but there is no denying there is a lot to mull over here. A second film sometime soon please, Mr. Wolfe?