Director Daniel Wolfe’s debut film is like a mixture of Romeo & Juliet and a Western, if that makes any sense to you at all. However you want to summarize or classify the film, it demonstrates that Wolfe has a style his own and has a great future before him behind the camera.
I chose this film from the multitude of strong choices at this year’s Fantasia film festival as its description caught my eye. But when the film started off I was like “hunh?” because what was going on onscreen did not mesh with the résumé I read. It starts off very British-like in that there is not much going on or more precisely the film is a more realistic portrayal of life and then over the last 45 minutes all hell breaks loose. Wolfe allows you to settle in with a short character study of our leads then hits you in the face with a shovel consisting of a tension filled chase/flee/escape portion. The difference in pacing makes everything that happens over the last 45 minutes all the more effective.
Young Brit-Pakistani Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed – first film) and her Scottish white boyfriend Aaron (Connor McCarron – first film) live together in a trailer park on the outskirts of a town somewhere in West Yorkshire. Laila works in a small hair salon while Aaron is unemployed. Money is pretty scarce, but that does not stop them from doing some drugs and drinking. Other than their obvious lack of money life seems to be rather carefree for the two, but that is just an illusion hiding what is actually going on.
Soon we realize that the two teenagers are actually hiding out there and are in serious danger. Two groups of men – one white and British with the other Pakistani – are on the hunt for the two and this is no lighthearted Easter egg hunt as the Pakistanis have lined the trunk of their SUV with plastic. Expecting a mess to come. We soon come to understand that they are looking for the two as Laila has run away from her family. This is not acceptable behaviour in the Pakistani community and her brother Zaheer (Ali Ahmad – first film) has gathered a posse under the instructions of his father to find and bring Laila back. To aid in that endeavor, Zaheer’s friend has engaged two white locals, Barry (Barry Nunney – first film) and Tony (Gary Lewis – Billy Elliot, Gangs of New York), to help in the hunt. The more Laila and Aaron run the more you realize that this is not going to end well for anyone involved.
Wolfe’s idea to use a cast made up of mostly non-actors was a stroke of genius because it brings a sense of realism and grittiness to the film. The two young non-actors are stand-outs with Sameena Jabeen Ahmed really bringing the terror and naïveté required by her role and Connor McCarron ably portraying a young man in over his head.
The way the film and story are laid out really makes all that happens over the last part all the more powerful. Much of the chase lends Catch Me Daddy that thriller kind of tension while the socio-cultural aspect of it is gut-wrenching. Your stomach is in knots for several reasons while the screenwriters – brothers Daniel and Matthew Wolfe – delve into this rather sensitive subject in a brutal way. All that tension builds up until the last scene which is almost too much to watch. Shivers occur. The way director Daniel unfurls the story really keeps the viewer tense and immersed in the goings on. And kudos to him for keeping the ending rather ambiguous.
An interesting portrayal of life for an immigrant South Asian population that is, like many other immigrant populations, trying to fit into life in modern England whilst holding on to their culture – for better or worse. At times I was wondering if it bordered on a stereotypical depiction of this population or was it just a frank portrayal? Were the Wolfe brothers falling into the trap of using the easy, but attention grabbing depiction of Pakistani culture or were they just addressing it head on? Were they challenging you to think about the injustice going on? That is up for debate.