It’s no surprise that English rom-coms and period pieces tend to do well in other English-speaking territories – they steer clear of strong, regional accents and their repeated use of central London and English country houses as locations fits with a safe, traditional idea of what England is like – but it’s a shame that the current wave of gritty, regional, social-realist dramas being made are typically less popular. Catch Me Daddy is a good example: released to critical acclaim in 2015, it played largely in arthouse cinemas or chains that lean towards the arthouse, so it was difficult to see on the big screen for a lot of people in this country, never mind those abroad. And yet this is actually one of the better British films I’ve seen of late, albeit one that’s relentlessly depressing in the way it portrays life in Bradford, and in particular the way that it depicts some members of the city’s Asian community. The story centres around Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed), a young girl who is in hiding on the outskirts of town; Aaron (Connor McCarron), her Scottish stoner boyfriend, is white, and we glean that the development of this relationship has supposedly brought shame on Laila’s Pakistani family. Her brother is looking for her, with a car-full of thugs in tow, and the threat of a family-sanctioned honour killing hangs over the film; we see these men lining their 4×4 with a plastic sheet, which hints that Laila’s punishment will be severe if she is caught. Two other men, both white, both high on coke, are working for and with Laila’s brother, despite harbouring racist views.
Directed by Daniel Wolfe, who co-wrote with his brother Matthew, Catch Me Daddy is every bit as uncomfortable and hard-hitting as the synopsis above would suggest. Though there are sporadic chase sequences it’s a largely downbeat affair: the depiction of Bradford and the villages around it does lend credence to the southerner’s (trite) belief that it’s grim up north, while a large part of the story takes place in the suitably bleak environs of the Pennines (at night, to boot). Wolfe’s interior scenes, however, do contain bold flashes of expressionist colour, and music is used to give the film regular boosts of adrenaline: the action moves briefly into a neon-lit nightclub, while there’s a standout sequence featuring Laila dances in her caravan to Patti Smith’s Horses (the film’s soundtrack, incidentally, is excellent); her abandon recalls the ‘Rihanna’ scene in last year’s Girlhood. The focus on a short period of time (around 24-48 hours, by my reckoning) means that the writers are hampered a little in terms of being able to develop their characters, but it’s an engrossing and shocking story nonetheless, and Ahmed grows into the role, delivering some impressive work during the harrowing final act. She is the only woman with a substantial part to play in the film, and she stands out from the pack, which mainly consists of interchangeable thuggish men.
Directed by: Daniel Wolfe.
Written by: Daniel Wolfe, Matthew Wolfe.
Starring: Sameena Jabeen Ahmed, Connor McCarron, Gary Lewis, Barry Nunney, Adrian Hussain, Anwar Hussain, Ali Ahmad, Shoby Kaman.
Cinematography: Robbie Ryan.
Editing: Dominic Leung, Tony Lindsay.
Music: Daniel Thomas Freeman, Matthew Watson.
Running Time: 109 minutes.